Hasan Suroor

LONDON: Leading British academics, writers, politicians, human rights lawyers, media personalities and a host of former diplomats have urged Prime Minister Tony Blair to distance Britain from the U.S. line on the Israel-Lebanon crisis and support the call of his European allies for an immediate ceasefire.

In a joint declaration they said his policy had left Britain "isolated'' in the international community and appealed to him to make an "urgent representation'' to Israel to stop its "disproportionate and counter-productive'' military response to Hizbollah's provocation. The declaration, which came as Mr. Blair left for Washington to discuss the crisis with the U.S. President George W. Bush, said he should tell Mr. Bush that Britain "can no longer support the U.S. position on the unfolding human catastrophe in the Middle East [West Asia]''.

The declaration was signed, among others, by playwright and Nobel Laureate Harold Pinter, scientist Richard Dawkins; Labour MPs and former Ministers Clare Short and Frank Dobson; human rights lawyer Louise Christian; artist Tracey Emin; the former British Ambassador to Iraq, Sir Harold Walker; and director of Christian Aid Daleep Mukarji.