Blair Holds Closed-Door Talks with Religious Leaders to Combat Extremism

LONDON – Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has held closed meetings with a number of religious leaders to lay down plans for an international interfaith foundation designed to combat religious extremism.

The foundation is being set up with the hope that it will help ease tensions between the world's major religions and help them to overcome common misunderstandings and misconceptions held against one another.

Reports about the new initiative came as Blair prepared to speak to some of America's leading Roman Catholic bishops in New York – an event that has reignited rumors of his impending conversion from Anglicanism to Catholicism.

"The tragedy is that Christians, Jews and Muslims are all Abrahamic religions," Blair has said.

"We regard ourselves as children of Abraham but we have fought for so long."

The former prime minister will be hoping that the new initiative will also help foster religious harmony in the Middle East and other volatile regions including Britain, where religious tensions are stirring.

Blair's advisers have also recently held talks with the office of Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor, head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, and representatives of the Archbishop of Canterbury, spiritual head of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

The Muslim Council of Britain has also given its full support to the initiative.

However, many others are still known to be skeptical over whether Blair, one of the leading figures behind the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, could demand the required trust from all sides to build lasting peace.