Egypt to attend West Asia peace meet in Annapolis

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CAIRO, Nov 21 (Reuters) Egypt will accept an invitation to take part in a US-sponsored peace conference on November 27 that is expected to launch formal negotiations for a Palestinian state, the foreign ministry said today.

''The foreign minister will respond affirmatively to the American invitation in the context of Egypt's continuing desire to give any possible assistance to the Palestinian cause,'' the ministry said in a statement.

State news agency MENA said that Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit would attend the conference in Annapolis, Maryland after receiving an invitation from US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Egypt said the invitation to the talks had stressed the importance of Cairo's participation to aid ''efforts to achieve progress in Palestinian-Israeli talks with the aim of reaching a just and permanent solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict''.

It said the invitation had also encompassed ''the fundamental bases for the peace process'', including the principle of land for peace.

Egypt had initially expressed some reservations about preparations for the talks, but has since offered broad support.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has said that a successful peace conference requires prior agreements between key parties and a firm timetable for the creation of a Palestinian state.

Arab foreign ministers are meeting in Cairo on Friday to take a common position on the peace process. Some Arab countries might not attend unless they see more progress in preparatory Israeli-Palestinian talks, diplomats say.

Diplomats and officials say the chances of a detailed agreement in Annapolis are small and the most to expect is a framework for future Israeli-Palestinian talks.

REUTERS RJ KP1733

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