London, Nov 14 : Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has urged US president elect Barack Obama to take the initiative on issues from climate change to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a way to heal the divisions between America and Europe.
In an interview with the Guardian during a visit to Rwanda, the former prime minister said Obama's election as US president opened up "an era of real possibility".
"I think he can say to Europe, look I'm going to champion a global deal on climate change, I'm going to take the Middle East peace process seriously, I'm going to make sure that poverty in Africa is right at the top of the agenda, I'm going to listen to your concerns and get a shared agenda with you."
But while Blair, who now serves as Middle East special envoy of the Quartet of the US, EU, Russia and the United Nations, welcomed Obama's election, he also warned that the new president would make demands on Europe and defend US interests.
"I'm not going to get into comparing presidents, because I think that would be, er, not very fruitful. But there's a tremendous possibility for Obama to reach out and create a unifying agenda," The Guardian quoted Blair, as saying.
"People should also understand that [Obama's] agenda will encompass American interests and demands too, and once the euphoria subsides a little, as it always does in these situations, there are tough choices all round."
Blair said European governments could expect Obama to look to them for support on ensuring victory in Afghanistan, on measures to block Iran from developing nuclear weapons, and on "a set of measures on the global economic crisis that are going to work for America as well as for [Europe]".
"People have got to understand that if we really want America to be in partnership with us, and that's a good and right ambition, America will be up there making demands as well as listening to ours."
Obama faces inflated expectations, as Blair did in 1997 - in part born out of antipathy to the outgoing administration - that the president-elect's staff are already trying to dampen.