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Last Updated: Friday, 23 November 2007, 16:51 GMT
Saudis to attend Mid-East summit
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Cairo
Mahmoud Abbas (R) briefed Prince Saud and other ministers in Cairo
Saudi Arabia has said it will attend next week's meeting on the Middle East at Annapolis in the US.

Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said he would go to the Maryland summit but that there would be no "theatrical show" with Israeli officials.

He was speaking at a meeting in Cairo of the Arab League, which will also attend at ministerial level. Syria has yet to decide on its attendance.

The US has sought strong Arab presence to bolster the conference.

Egypt and Jordan have already said they will go.

Declaration

Prince Saud confirmed his attendance but admitted there had been opposition.

"I'm not hiding any secret about the Saudi position. We were reluctant until today. And if not for the Arab consensus we felt today, we would not have decided to go," he said.

"But... as long as the Arab position has agreed on attending, the kingdom will walk along with its brothers in one line."

Prince Saud said he was "not prepared to take part in a theatrical show, in handshakes and meetings that don't express political positions".

Saudi Arabia does not have diplomatic relations with Israel and has been pressing for Israeli concessions to the Palestinians ahead of the talks.

The Saudis have proposed a Middle East peace plan, endorsed by the Arab League, which offers Israel recognition by all Arab states if it leaves occupied Palestinian land.

Golan question

Syrian attendance is still to be decided. But on Friday Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said his government had been given assurances by the US that the Golan Heights, Syrian territory occupied by Israel since 1967, would be on the Annapolis agenda.

This had been a key condition of Syrian attendance.

A US state department spokesman declined to say whether Washington had confirmed to the Syrian government that the Golan Heights would be on the agenda.

He told the BBC News website that all participants would have an opportunity to express their views and their national interests.

The focus of the agenda would be the Israeli-Palestinian issue and issues surrounding that, he added, but nations would be able bring up specific issues if they wanted to.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has been in Cairo briefing ministers on the progress of his preliminary talks with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

Israel and the Palestinians have yet to agree on a joint declaration for the conference, to be held in Annapolis.

The BBC's Heba Saleh in Cairo says Arabs remain deeply sceptical about Israel's willingness to make concessions for a peace agreement.

But she says they seem to have decided that even a flawed peace conference is preferable to the paralysis of the past seven years.



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