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Blair: Mideast needs evolution, not revolution

Amid the popular uprisings that have shaken the foundation of the Arab world for the last six months, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair said the region needs to foster "steady evolution, rather than revolution."

"You need a plan for evolution so that countries move slowly but steadily and surely towards a situation where people have greater freedom, the chance to elect their governments and so on. Because the problem with revolutions is never where they begin, but where they end," Blair said on "The Early Show" Thursday.

Blair is the Middle East envoy for the Quartet, which is made up of the U.S., United Nations, European Union and Russia.

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His comments come as President Barack Obama readies an address on the region in which he'll seek to clarify U.S. support for democratic movements, including offers of financial assistance to countries like Egypt, and ratchet up pressure on autocratic regimes like Syria that continue to crack down violently on protesters.

Blair said it was "absolutely essential" for Mr. Obama to lay out an economic plan for the region.

"These countries need help, because the right to vote is important. So is the ability to get a job. So is rising prosperity. There are things like freedom of expression and freedom of religion. So it's more than just a protest whereby people vote in their government. If you don't put the economic and the social aspects alongside it, then obviously there's a danger, disillusion sets in and more extreme elements can exploit the situation."

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Among the proposals Mr. Obama is expected to lay out are forgiving $1 billion of Egypt's debt and providing up to $1 billion more in loans to that country through the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, a U.S. government institution that mobilizes private capital..

The president is also expected to prod the Israelis and Palestinians to forge a peace deal.

"The Israel-Palestine issue fits absolutely into the changing nature of the region, and right at this moment, yes, it may be difficult to come to a peace deal, but I still think it's important we give some direction to this process, and I think [Obama will] try to do that," Blair said.