Abbas calls for Mideast conference

The Palestinian president has called for an international conference to help resolve the conflict with Israel and says the Hamas-led government will not impede talks.

    Abbas delivered a speech at Oslo's Nobel Institute

    Mahmoud Abbas' statements on Wednesday were made during a one-day visit to Norway.

    Norway, meanhwile, has pledged a $20 million aid package to the Palestinians, but said none of it would go directly to the Hamas government.

    In a speech at Oslo's Nobel Institute, Abbas said: "I believe that to resolve the conflict both sides should not be left alone with this imbalanced relation of occupier and occupied.

    "An international conference should be summoned immediately in which direct negotiations take place on the basis of international UN resolutions and signed agreements,"

    He said that the quartet, which groups the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and Russia, could play the role of negotiator and arbitrator in such talks.

    "I am ready to immediately resume negotiations with the Israeli government," he said, and added that the Hamas-led government was not an obstacle to negotiations with Israel.

    Aid call

    Hamas took power in the Palestinian territories in March after beating Abbas' Fatah in a January election. 

    Abbas (C) visited Norway seeking
    aid for Palestinians

    Hamas has rebuffed international demands to recognise Israel, disarm and accept peace deals.

    Abbas' visit to Norway was part of a tour to try to persuade Western governments to release aid to the Palestinian Authority, which has been cut off by the United States and the European Union since Hamas came to power.

    He was to travel to Finland later on Wednesday.

    Norwegian pledge

    Norway, which leads a group of donor nations and is the second biggest donor after the United States, said it would deliver at least as much aid this year as last year if the Hamas regime fulfilled certain conditions.

    Jonas Gahr Stoere, the Norwegian foreign minister, said "the support we will give them in 2006 will be equally big or bigger" than in 2005.

    Last year, Norway gave 379 million Norwegian crowns ($60.04 million) directly to the Palestinian Authority and $195 million to the United Nation's Relief and Works Agency, which helps Palestinian refugees.

    Norway has given the Palestinian Authority $10 million this year. The next instalment is due in mid-2006.

    Norway has endorsed the view that the Palestinian Authority must take steps to comply with the quartet's demands that it recognise the state of Israel, renounce violence and accept previous agreements.

    Norwegian officials said Norway stuck to those requirements.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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