04/10/2011 12:46 BST | Updated 04/12/2011 05:12 GMT

Liam Fox Questions Blair's Suitability For Middle East Peace Role

Tony Blair's record as prime minister means he lacks the "great qualities" to be part of the Quartet on the Middle East, the defence secretary has said.

Liam Fox took a swipe at both current prime minister David Cameron and the former PM Tony Blair during an extended interview with Peter Oborne at the Conservative party conference, saying of Blair:

"I'm sure that he means well. Of course I wouldn't wish that anybody that might assist a process wouldn't succeed. But I have to say that given his record as Prime Minister of the UK, I'm not exactly sure what the great qualities are of Tony Blair to make him such an exceptional international statesman".

Fox declined to apologise for the UK's previous foreign policy and their policy of rapprochement to Libya on two occasions, saying:

"I think who took those decisions need to be answerable for their own actions. What Tony Blair did in relation to Libya was a decision he made about trying to get rid of the nuclear programme in Libya. Exactly what his motivations were - they're for that government."

And he snubbed the prime minister's apology for Bloody Sunday, saying: "I'm not one of those that thinks you should go round apologising for things that you didn't actually do, previous governments did. I'm definitely willing to be answerable for policies that the current government has."

The defence secretary also warned of the possibility of a new nuclear arms race if Iran developed nuclear capabilities, and said that the UK would not rule out any option with the country, which Fox said was a "real threat".

Fox was also pressured over Britain's support for the Palestinian bid for statehood at the UN. Egypt's ambassador to the UK Hatem Seif El Nasr told Fox that the Arab Spring had made the Palestinian cause more urgent.

However Fox was adamant that a resolution would not mean proper "progress on the ground" and said both parties would be "well advised" to stop the process

"Ultimately you can have many resolutions. But if the parties on the ground are not willing to work together to produce a genuine peace than it's not going to create progress in the Middle East."