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Abbas, Olmert Receive Formal Invitations to Mideast Peace Conference

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas have received formal invitations to a Mideast peace conference in the U.S. city of Annapolis near Washington next week.

The offices of the two leaders confirmed the invitations were received Tuesday.

Palestinian officials say the conference will take place November 27.

Also Tuesday, a U.S. State Department spokesman, Sean McCormack, said a number of countries and organizations will also receive invitations soon. He said more than 100 people will attend, if every entity that is invited sends a delegation.

Separately, a U.S. government spokesman, Gordon Johndroe of the National Security Council, said President Bush called Saudi Arabia's King Abdallah Tuesday to discuss the upcoming conference and the negotiations that are underway between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

Earlier Tuesday, Israel's prime minister said he hopes to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians next year. He spoke in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt after talks with President Hosni Mubarak. Egypt's leader has expressed support for the upcoming peace conference.

In other developments, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad criticized the conference today during a meeting in Tehran with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem.

Mr. Ahmadinejad said organizers aim to create links between Arab states and what he called the "Zionist regime", a reference to Israel. He said the conference will have no benefit to the Palestinians.

In other news, Israeli media say troops shot and killed four Palestinians in two incidents late Monday along Gaza's border with Israel.

Also Monday, Palestinian gunmen killed an Israeli man in the West Bank as he drove near an Israeli settlement. A militant group affiliated with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement claimed responsibility for the attack.

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