· By MONITOR MR Tony Blair told the European Parliament, “I am a passionate pro-European. I always have been”, and warned that unless the EU reformed itself it faced “Failure on a grand, strategic, scale”. The rough reception forecast for Mr Blair from MEPs did not take place and there was agreement that his speech had been forceful and effective. Mr Gordon Brown, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, borrowed 8'735 billion pounds in May, the highest amount since 1993. Mr Brown's flagship tax credit scheme for low income groups was severely criticised by the Parliamentary Ombudsman and Citizens Advice for administrative failures which had caused thousands of families “worry and distress”. Opening the National School of Government, a study centre for civil servants, Mr Blair announced a new quango called Better Regulation Executive for “reducing the burden of paperwork for business”. Dr John Sentamu, a former Ugandan high court judge, was bamed as the new Archbishop of York. Talks between Mr Ariel Sharon, the Prime Minister of Israel, and Mr Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the Palestinian Authority, made little progress; shortly before they began Israeli forces had arrested 52 men in the West Bank suspected of belonging to the militant Islamic Jihad. In Lebanon an anti-Syrian coalition led by Mr Saad al-Hariri, the son of the assassinated ex-prime minister Rafik al-Hariri, secured a parliamentary majority. In Egypt, during a visit to the Middle East, Dr Condoleezza Rice, US Secretary of State, said: “It is time to abandon the excuses that are made to avoid the hard work of democracy”. In Washington, during a press conference with Mr Jean-Claude Juncker, the Prime Minister of Luxembourg and until June 30 president of the EU Council of Ministers, President Bush said “I was going to say he's a piece of work, but that may not translate well.” The US Senate again failed to approve Mr Bush's nomination of John Bolton as US Ambassador to the United Nations; there was speculation that the President may go ahead with Mr Bolton's appointment while Congress in is summer recess.

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