Jordanians stage anti-Annapolis protest

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AMMAN, Nov 27 (Reuters) - Scores of jeering Jordanians took part in a rally today against the US-hosted West Asia conference in Annapolis, denouncing it as a sellout of the Palestinian cause.

Protesters shouted ''Death to Israel'' and burnt Israeli and US flags at the demonstration in Amman organised by the powerful association of professional unions, a bastion of the Islamist-led opposition.

Many of Jordan's 5.6 million citizens are Palestinians, whose families settled there after successive Arab-Israeli wars, placing the kingdom, which signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994, at the heart of decades of conflict.

Speakers at the rally said the Annapolis conference would erode the rights of millions of Palestinian refugees throughout the West Asia and no Arab state was entitled to speak or negotiate on their behalf.

''We think that those who participated in Annapolis were not appointed by anyone and do not possess the right to compromise the pillars of the nation and its principles,'' said Sheikh Hamza Mansour, a leading Islamist politician.

President George W Bush opened the high-stakes conference today with the announcement that Israel and the Palestinians had agreed to launch peace talks with the goal of reaching a final accord by the end of 2008.

At today's rally, one protester held a sign saying ''Annapolis means the loss of Palestinian rights and liquidation of the cause'' and the crowd called on Arabs to take up arms against Israel and to reject any ''humiliating deal'' that served only Israeli and US goals.

REUTERS JT RAI2350

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