Newspaper headlines: 'Syria trio' and Blair peace role rethink

The arrests of three British teenagers suspected of trying to reach the Islamic State group in Syria attract front page headlines.

The two 17-year-old boys and a 19-year-old man, who were detained by the Turkish authorities as they arrived in the country before being returned to the UK, have since been bailed by police pending further inquiries.

The Times reports that a tip-off to Scotland Yard from the desperate parents led officers in Istanbul to swoop.

Sources quoted by the paper say quick action by the parents of the younger boys, when the pair did not return to their homes in London after Friday prayers, thwarted the latest alleged attempt by young Britons to join IS.

The Guardian says the Turkish authorities have been under increased pressure to intercept British nationals after three British schoolgirls left their families in east London to join the group and were pictured apparently crossing the border into Syria.

According to the Sun, the three men had attempted to follow the practice of entering Turkey via Spain to avoid suspicion.

The Daily Telegraph notes that the chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, Keith Vaz, has welcomed the intervention but indicated the case showed the "flight of young people to Turkey in order to go to Syria is on a much larger scale than we envisaged".

High-stakes politics

The suggestion Tony Blair's future as envoy for the Quartet of Middle East peace negotiators is to come to an end is the lead for the Financial Times - and followed up by a number of papers.

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The FT says the former prime minister is preparing to step back after eight years as he recognises that a "frontline role is no longer tenable". It says there is "deep unease" in the US and Washington over Mr Blair's poor relations with senior Palestinian Authority figures and his sprawling business interests.

If he does stand aside or take an informal position, it would end the controversial arrangement that has made him a fixture of Middle East diplomacy while conducting private business with some governments in the region, adds the FT.

The paper says the role - representing the EU, US, the UN and Russia - provided Mr Blair with the opportunity to remain a player in the game of high-stakes politics in the region but he has few accomplishments to point to.

According to the Times, Mr Blair will now seek a broader role in the region. The paper reports he remains keen to try to bring prosperity to the Palestinian territories but wants to escape from day-to-day political discussions. But it says the change risks being seen as an admission of failure.

Eye-catching headlines

"Red kite or robin? Voting opens for Britain's first 'national bird'" - The Independent says Britons are being asked to chose a favourite feathered friend to rival the US bald eagle and France's rooster

"Rise of centenarian drivers as elderly refuse to park up" - The Times says more than 200 motorists are still on the road after celebrating their 100th birthday, up by a fifth in the last two years

"Tanks to go at 40mph to make UK roads safer" - The Daily Telegraph reports that Army battle tanks will be able to drive faster on public roads, in a move aimed at cutting rural traffic jams and preventing drivers causing accidents while trying to overtake

Budget matters

Commentators continue to look ahead to Wednesday's Budget.

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Daily Telegraph cartoonist Adams portrays Chancellor George Osborne attempting to offer something for everyone this week - having him standing outside Number 11 Downing Street, clutching his official red Budget box stuffed with money. "This Budget will be especially for...! (your name here)" reads a caption.

The Guardian's economics correspondent Larry Elliott argues the chancellor has been setting the domestic agenda during the coalition's time in office.

"Pre-election budgets rarely count for much," he writes. "This time it's different. This time the Budget matters, even though it is not going to be the Budget Osborne might have envisaged delivering when he became chancellor almost five years ago."

In the Daily Express, political commentator Chris Roycroft-Davis agrees Mr Osborne "holds all the cards" to securing election success for the Tories, but says one weak spot Labour might be able to exploit is the plans for defence spending.

The Daily Mirror predicts the Budget will be "designed to soft soap voters into saving the Chancellor's skin" on election day - but predicts painful and disastrous cuts will follow. "What Osborne does not tell us will be more revealing than what he does," it adds.

In its leader column, the Financial Times urges Mr Osborne to "progress towards reinventing Britain as a productive, exporting powerhouse".

Comet comparison

Political correspondents appear to have drawn mixed messages from the Liberal Democrats spring conference in Liverpool.

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The Guardian chooses to highlight leader Nick Clegg's insistence that the party could still be a moderating force in another coalition government after May's general election.

And the Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail both note his call for activists to take inspiration from the spirit of the "audacious" British-devised Rosetta mission to land a spacecraft on a comet, as they go into the campaign.

The Sun says Mr Clegg's "defiant claim" in his keynote speech that the party were "here to stay" came despite poll predictions, and was overshadowed by a row with former Lib Dem president Tim Farron.

Mr Farron, reported to be setting himself up as a possible successor to Mr Clegg, was earlier quoted as saying the party's reputation has been damaged by going into coalition with the Tories.

In its leader column the Times questions Tim Farron's thinking, saying the Lib Dems "will give up their purpose if they refuse to deal with the Conservatives".

The Times sketch writer Ann Treneman is of the opinion Mr Clegg's speech was "one of his best... well delivered, passionate about Lib Dem themes of mental health, education, fairer taxes". But she picks up on his attacks on his Conservative coalition partners, saying it felt like the "end of a road", and predicts it is doubtful whether Mr Clegg will make the leader's speech at the next party conference.

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