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Report: Quartet lobbying enriched Abbas' family

Sept. 13, 2010 10:18 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 14, 2010 9:16 P.M.)
LONDON (Ma'an) -- Middle East Quartet envoy to Jerusalem Tony Blair's lobbying in favor of a Palestinian telecommunications company enriched the family of President Mahmoud Abbas, a UK tabloid reported Sunday.

A special investigation published in The Daily Mail's weekly edition on Blair's financial gains from lobbying on behalf of Wataniya includes allegations that Abbas' son made a fortune through the former British prime minister's actions.

According to the report, Blair mounted an intense political lobbying campaign to rescue the struggling mobile-phone business owned by a client of the bank that pays him millions of dollars annually. Wataniya almost collapsed before launching its service, jeopardizing a multimillion-dollar investment, because Israel’s government was refusing to let it use the frequencies it needed to operate.

Acting in his capacity as the international Middle East peace envoy, Blair helped to save the company by spending months putting pressure on Israel’s prime minister and his colleagues in a bid to change their minds, pointing out the need to help the Palestinians' economy.

What Blair never mentioned is that JP Morgan, the American investment bank that employs him as a consultant, has a financial stake in Wataniya through Wataniya’s owner, the Qatari firm Qtel, which is an important client of JP Morgan. Blair's spokesman told the tabloid he had no knowledge of any connection between JP Morgan and Qtel. He repeated the denials to the Israeli press.

Still, the allegations also call into question some of the gains by the Ramallah-based Palestinian president's son, Tarek Abbas, whose firm has reportedly secured a lucrative contract to provide advertising for Wataniya.

In July 2008, Blair brokered what Wataniya thought was a cast-iron deal with Israel to make the frequencies it needed available. In order to provide a modern 3G service to include mobile internet, Wataniya had been seeking a bandwidth of 4.8 megahertz. On the strength of this agreement, it continued to build mobile-phone masts, switching centers and other installations it needed to operate.

Wataniya managed to secure special additional loans from a US government program that had been set up to help Palestinian farmers and small businesses -- despite the backing it had from Qtel and, indirectly, banks such as JP Morgan.
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