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Arab countries to attend Mideast peace conference

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Arab countries have agreed to participate in a Middle East peace forum in the United States, foreign ministers of the Arab League said on Friday.
CAIRO, November 23 (RIA Novosti) - Arab countries have agreed to participate in a Middle East peace forum in the United States, foreign ministers of the Arab League said on Friday.

The conference, to be held in Annapolis, U.S., on November 27, will seek to make progress on the issue of Palestinian statehood.

"The Arab peace follow up group has decided to accept the invitation to attend the Annapolis Middle East peace conference at a ministerial level to discuss the peace process," Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said, adding that the Arab countries would be represented by their foreign ministers.

Arab countries urged the U.S. to include the issue of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights on its agenda.

The leaders of Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian National Authority, who met on Thursday to coordinate positions for the U.S.-sponsored conference, said they were optimistic.

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.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas earlier urged the Arab countries "not to miss a historic chance and attend the forum."

Arab leaders previously 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.

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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