France to host Palestinian donor conference

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PARIS, Oct 17 (Reuters) France will host a major donors' conference for the Palestinian Territories in December, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said today.

The conference, held at the request of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, aims to mobilise donors to provide political and financial support to the Palestinian Authority after a separate peace conference in the United States, he said.

It will be chaired by Kouchner, Middle East envoy and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere.

The United States is seeking agreement between Israel and the Palestinians on key issues for a Middle East conference expected to take place in November or December in Annapolis, Maryland.

''This is a moment of hope for this process but there's a lot of work to do,'' said Blair, who has been tasked by the Quartet of Middle East mediators -- the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations, with helping the Palestinians on security and economic issues.

''We need a strong agreement for the Annapolis conference in the United States and then obviously what we have to do is get the international community in support of that agreement, and in support of the Palestinians, as they build the capabilities and the institutions necessary for statehood,'' he told reporters.

In a statement, the French Foreign Ministry said the donors' conference, due to be held in December, would focus on ''improving the daily life of Palestinians and creating the basic foundations for a state.'' REUTERS RSA RN2318

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