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Putin upbeat on Mideast peace conference in U.S.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin said he expected the Middle East conference to be held in the United States on November 27 to be a success.
MOSCOW, November 22 (RIA Novosti) - Russian President Vladimir Putin said he expected the Middle East conference to be held in the United States on November 27 to be a success.

The conference will aim to make progress on the issue of Palestinian statehood.

"I consider the Middle East conference to be a useful event, and I hope that the participants will achieve a positive result," he told a news conference after talks with Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi.

Prodi said he also hoped that the participants in the Annapolis meeting would make every effort to achieve results at the conference.

The leaders of Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian National Authority met on Thursday ahead of a broader Arab summit on Friday to coordinate positions for the U.S.-sponsored Middle East peace conference, and said they were optimistic about the upcoming talks.

President Hosni Mubarak held separate meetings with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and King Abdullah II of Jordan in the Red Sea resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh.

"The three leaders agreed that there are grounds for optimism with respect to the upcoming meeting in Annapolis," an Egyptian presidential spokesman said, adding they hoped the meeting would live up to the Arabs countries' expectations.

Arab leaders have expressed doubts over the conference, demanding a more specific agenda and questioning whether it will be effective given the current outbreak of violence in the region.

Egypt is the only Arab state to have confirmed its participation in the U.S.-hosted meeting.

Syria said it would take part if the conference addressed the return of the Golan Heights seized by Israel in 1967.

The Palestinians want a detailed agreement specifying each party's commitment concerning key points, such as future borders, the status of Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees, and Israeli settlements. Israel is looking for a more general guideline.

Israel has sought to retain control over East Jerusalem and key settlements in the West Bank as part of an eventual agreement.

Israel's prime minister, Ehud Olmert, said on Tuesday following a meeting with the Egyptian president that he expected a final peace deal to be signed with the Palestinians in 2008 shortly after the conference in the U.S.

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