Israel agrees to London peace conference

 

Israel has agreed to attend a Mideast peace conference in London after backing off its earlier reluctance to participate in the gathering, an official said today.

The official said the Israeli Prime Minister, Mr Ariel Sharon, has sent a letter to British Prime Minister, Mr Tony Blair, agreeing to attend the conference, tentatively scheduled for February.

In the past, Israel has been cool to participating in international Mideast conferences, fearing outside intervention in its conflict with the Palestinians.

It will entirely be focused on how the world can help the Palestinians prepare themselves for the new era.
Dov Weisglass, aide to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon

Palestinian officials have welcomed talk of a Mideast conference, hoping to use the event as a springboard for restarting peace talks with Israel.

But the Israeli official said the meeting should focus on reforming the Palestinian Authority and reviving the Palestinian economy.

"There is definitely an understanding between the prime minister and Mr Blair's office on the focus of the conference," the official said.

Earlier, Mr Dov Weisglass, a top aide to Mr Sharon, expressed high hopes for the London conference, calling it "maybe the most significant development in the near future.

"It will be a meeting between Palestinians, a few European countries and a few American officials," he said. "It will entirely be focused on how the world can help the Palestinians prepare themselves for the new era."

AP