Bush Announces Mideast Peace Conference The conference, to be held this fall, would include representatives from Israel, the Palestinian authority and Arab neighbors. The president also pledges an increase in aid to the government of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
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Bush Announces Mideast Peace Conference

President Bush announced an international conference to include Israel, the Palestinian authority and some of their Arab neighbors to help restart Mideast peace talks. Ron Edmonds/AP Photos hide caption

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Ron Edmonds/AP Photos

President Bush announced a conference between the U.S., Israel and the Palestinian authority on Monday, aimed at restarting peace talks and reviewing the progress in building democratic institutions.

Mr. Bush said the peace conference will be held this fall and will also include some neighboring Arab states, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan. He said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will preside over the session, which will include only those governments that support the creation of a Palestinian state.

The president also pledged $190 million in financial support for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who has controlled only the West Bank since the Islamist militant group Hamas gained authority over Gaza in June.

Speaking at the White House, Mr. Bush said the past few years had seen "some hopeful, some dispiriting" changes in the Middle East, and he called the present time "a moment of clarity for all Palestinians." He said the Palestinian people must choose between two paths — one represented by the moderate government led by Abbas and his Fatah faction, the other by Hamas.

The president described Hamas' takeover in Gaza as a "violent and lawless" betrayal.

The fall conference would be a way to prod the peace process. It would be one of the few times that Israeli and Arab leaders have met jointly to work out their differences.

From Associated Press reports