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Palestinian President Ready for Israel Talks


Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said from Norway he is ready to resume peace talks with Israel, possibly in the form of an international conference. The Arab-Israeli conflict was also raised by top Arab and European diplomats in Paris.

Speaking at a conference on European-Arab relations, French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste Blazy said the international community remain engaged in resolving crises in the Arab and Muslim world - including the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Mr. Douste-Blazy said France remains convinced that assistance to the Palestinian authority must continue, so as not to sanction the Palestinian people. He said the role of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas must be respected.

The European Union suspended aid to the Palestinian Authority under the new Hamas-led government, although it continues to send millions of dollars in indirect, humanitarian assistance. Like the United States, the European Union is conditioning future aid on agreement by the radical Islamic party to renounce violence, recognize Israel, and commit itself to peace talks.

The French foreign minister's remarks coincided with Mr. Abbas' announcement in Oslo that he wanted to resume negotiations immediately with Israel.

Mr. Abbas said his Palestinian Liberation Organization, which is in the minority in the new Palestinian parliament, nonetheless has a mandate to negotiate with Israel. He called for international mediators in the talks, possibly the quartet comprising the United States, Europe, Russia and the United Nations.

Israel has reacted cooly to Mr. Abbas remarks, saying a peace plan exists, but that the ruling Hamas party refuses to accept it.

Meanwhile in Paris, European and Arab officials called for dialogue in resolving other Middle East crises as well, including that of Iraq. In remarks to VOA, Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa said a conference would be held soon in Baghdad, bringing together disparate parties in the Iraqi conflict.

"Conciliation. We cannot go on and on with the wedges that are being driven among the Iraqi people," he said.

Mr. Abbas is due to arrive Thursday in Paris, following a stop in Finland.

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