TONY Blair is preparing to "step back" from his role as envoy for the Quartet of Middle East peace negotiators, according to reports.

The Financial Times cites "several people familiar with the situation" as saying the former Prime Minister has recognised that a frontline role is no longer tenable.

The move comes amid deep unease from some US and EU officials over his business interests.

Blair is said to be in the process of negotiations to amend his role in the Middle East as he is determined to remain a part of the peace process.

If he does step aside, it would bring an end to controversy over a potential conflict of interests between his diplomat role and private business interests.

The FT quotes one unnamed diplomat as saying: "It is long overdue. He has been ineffective in this job. He has no credibility in this part of the world."

Blair was appointed Quartet envoy in 2007 shortly after stepping down from a decade as Prime Minister.

In November last year, it was claimed he had signed a secret contract with a Saudi oil company worth £41,000 a month through his company Tony Blair Associates.