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US-sponsored Mideast conference may pave way for solution of Palestinian issue

U.S.- sponsored Mideast conference offered an opportunity to end regional tensions and pave the way for a solution to the Palestinian issue.

"Jordan was, from the beginning, among those who sought to convene this meeting, because we see it as an opportunity to contribute to ending the state of regional tension, end the Israeli occupation, pave the way for a just solution to the Palestinian issue and ensure the establishment of an independent Palestinian state," he said.

The United States hopes key Arab countries - including Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia - will attend the conference due in Annapolis, Maryland. Most Arab leaders have said that before accepting an invitation, they want to be sure the conference deals with substance.

But Abdullah, who has voiced strongest support among Middle East leaders for the U.S.-sponsored conference, said it would "undoubtedly constitute a valuable opportunity to return to negotiations that are serious and time-framed" on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

It could lead to a "comprehensive solution that would secure inalienable Palestinian rights rights in Jerusalem, the right of return, a sovereign state and peace and security for all," Abdullah said.

Abdullah stressed that Jordan takes to heart the Palestinian cause and expressed satisfaction that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert are seriously trying to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

"I have sensed seriousness and great concern ... to drive the peace process toward a conclusion, an independent Palestinian state," he said of Abbas and added that Olmert told him recently he believed there was an "opportunity to realize real achievements, including a two-state solution before the end of U.S. President (George W.) Bush's term."

In the interview, Abdullah spoke of the upcoming Jordanian parliamentary elections on Nov. 20 for the 110-seat chamber of deputies, saying the vote was a "step along the right path" to strengthen Jordan's democracy. He insisted that the elections process must be transparent, free and fair.

On Iraq, Abdullah spoke against any divisions of the country and said Iraq's "security and stability reflects on its neighbors. This is why the Arab countries need to work to ensure Iraq's unity and Arab character."

On Lebanon, he stressed Jordan's hope the rival factions in parliament would succeed in electing a president and overcoming the current political deadlock.

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