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Egypt, Turkey Confirm Attendance at Mideast Peace Conference 


Egypt and Turkey say their foreign ministers will attend a Middle East peace conference in the U.S. city of Annapolis near Washington next week.

The two countries are the first Muslim nations to confirm their participation in the U.S.-sponsored conference. Other Arab states are expected to decide on their attendance during an Arab League meeting in Cairo Friday.

The White House says President Bush Wednesday phoned Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss the conference.

The United States has invited nearly 50 nations and organizations to Tuesday's conference, including several Arab states that do not recognize Israel, such as Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Syria.

Mr. Olmert and Mr. Abbas are to attend.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said today she believes the conference will be a success if it launches Israeli-Palestinian negotiations to create a Palestinian state. She said the United States hopes for a peace deal between the sides before President Bush leaves office in early 2009.

Palestinian officials say they are continuing talks with Israel aimed at drafting a joint document to be presented at the conference.

Israel's government announced another goodwill gesture to Mr. Abbas today, saying it will permit Palestinian farmers in the Gaza Strip to export flowers and strawberries to Europe. It will be the first major easing of Israeli trade restrictions on Gaza since the Hamas militant group seized the territory in June.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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