US invites India, Pakistan to Middle East conference

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Washington, Nov 22: India and Pakistan are among the nearly 50 countries and international organizations that the Bush administration has invited to a Middle East peace conference next week to help Israel and Palestinians to revive the talks which collapsed seven years ago.

The US-sponsored conference is scheduled for November 26-28 in Annapolis, Maryland.

''The conference will signal broad international support for the Israeli and Palestinian leaders' courageous efforts and will be a launching point for negotiations leading to the establishment of a Palestinian state and the realization of Israeli-Palestinian peace,'' State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said here yesterday.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will host a dinner the preceding evening in Washington, where President Bush will make a speech.

Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, David Welch, said the conference would offer an opportunity to initiate talks aimed at a wide-ranging peace plan for the Middle East.

David Welch said, ''It is devoted to a serious purpose, that is the launch of negotiations toward a two-state solution and that has long been a request from the Arab countries and now they will see it being met. It is, in our judgment, an appropriate time for them to play a role in exercising their responsibility to lead toward comprehensive peace in the Middle East, too.'' Both President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert appointed negotiators to write a joint document of principles for a future peace deal to be presented in Annapolis.

They, however, have not been able to agree on a detailed text and a more general joint statement is expected to be released at the conference.

Meanwhile, President Bush has asked Congress to approve an increase of more than 400 million dollar in additional aid, on top of the 77 million dollar requested earlier this year.


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