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Abbas calls for international Mideast conference

Written by: Staff
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OSLO, Apr 26: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called today for an international conference to help resolve the conflict with Israel and said the Hamas-led government would not impede talks.

''I believe that to resolve the conflict both sides should not be left alone with this imbalanced relation of occupier and occupied,'' Abbas said in a speech at Oslo's Nobel Institute during a one-day visit to the Norwegian capital.

''An international conference should be summoned immediately in which direct negotiations take place on the basis of international U.N. resolutions and signed agreements,'' Abbas said.

He said that the quartet, which groups the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and Russia, could play the role of broker and arbitrator in such talks.

''I am ready to immediately resume negotiations with the Israeli government,'' he said, and added that the Hamas-led government was not an obstacle to negotiations with Israel.

Hamas took power in the Palestinian territories last month after beating Abbas' Fatah in a January election. Hamas is sworn to destroy Israel and has rebuffed international demands to recognise the Jewish state, disarm and accept peace deals.

Abbas' visit to Norway was part of a tour to try to persuade Western governments to release aid to the Palestinian Authority, which has been cut off by the United States and the European Union since Hamas came to power at the start of the year.

He was scheduled to travel to Finland later today.

Norway, which leads a group of donor nations to the Palestinians and is the second biggest donor after the United States, said it would deliver at least as much aid this year as last year if the Hamas regime fulfils certain conditions.

''The support we will give them in 2006 will be equally big or bigger'' than in 2005, Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere told reporters.

Last year Norway gave 379 million Norwegian crowns direct to Palestinian Authority and 195 million dollars to the United Nation's Relief and Works Agency which helps Palestinian refugees.

Norway has already given the Palestinian Authority 10 million dollars this year. The next instalment is due around mid-2006.

Norway has endorsed the view that the Palestinian Authority must take steps to comply with the quartet's demands that it recognise the state of Israel, renounce violence and accept previously signed agreements.

Norwegian officials said Norway stuck to those requirements.

REUTERS

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