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Britain, US to Organize Investors'Conference for Palestinians

A day after international delegates agreed in Paris to give at least $7 billion in aid to the Palestinians, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met British PM Gordon Brown at 10 Downing Street. After the discussions Tuesday, the two held a joint news conference. In London, Tom Rivers reports for VOA.

The British prime minister announced that the U.S. and Britain will organize an investors' conference to bolster the Palestinian economy. Mr. Brown said it will take place in Bethlehem, on the West Bank, in March or April.

The announcement came after the prime minister held talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at Mr. Brown's official London residence.

The investors' gathering is designed to work in conjunction with the large donor effort agreed on Monday in Paris that earmarks $7.4 billion worth of aid for the Palestinians over the next three years.

Mr. Brown says he has been in talks with colleagues on how best to address ways of improving the Palestinian economy, infrastructure development and small business plans. He says the Bethlehem conference will send an important signal about the need for investment in job creation and opportunities in the Palestinian areas.

Speaking about the Paris conference, the British prime minister said the pledges made in Paris reflect the international community's commitment to the Palestinians.

"I believe that these pledges yesterday underline the international community's commitment that 2008 is the year of great opportunity for the creation of a viable state of Palestine alongside a secure state of Israel," he said.

At the news conference, Mr. Abbas talked about a golden and historic opportunity for peace in the Middle East following the relaunch of peace efforts at Annapolis, Maryland last month, but he urged Israel to halt settlement building in the occupied West Bank.

"We believe the settlements and the ongoing establishment of settlements are major impediments facing the progress of the peace process," he said.

The financial pledges made in Paris are aimed at helping the moderate Palestinian president, whose Fatah movement controls the West Bank, in its power struggle with the Islamic militant group Hamas, which seized power in Gaza in June.