US issues formal invitations to Annapolis meeting

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RAMALLAH, West Bank, Nov 20 (Reuters) The United States issued formal invitations today to a West Asia peace conference next week, senior aides to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said.

''President Abbas has received a formal invitation from US President George W Bush to attend the Annapolis conference,'' Palestinian official Nabil Abu Rdainah told Reuters.

''We have received an official invitation from the State Department to participate in the upcoming international meeting in Annapolis,'' Olmert's spokeswoman Miri Eisin said.

The meeting, to include representatives of the US and other governments, would take place today, November 27, officials said. Annapolis is close to the US capital, Washington.

Palestinian and Israeli negotiators would continue to try to draft a common policy document to be presented at the meeting, Abu Rdainah said.

Bush hopes the conference will relaunch negotiations on establishing a Palestinian state, seven years after the last major effort to conclude a peace treaty.

Abbas and Olmert have both said they would like to reach a deal before Bush steps down as president in January 2009.

However, both leaders face fierce opposition within their own communities and negotiators have struggled in recent weeks to resolve differences on key issues.

REUTERS RSA BST0025

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