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Peace is possible: Abbas

By Hasan Suroor

LONDON, FEB. 28. On the eve of an international conference on Palestine, called by the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, in London on Tuesday, the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, has called for early "final status negotiations'' leading to the creation of an independent Palestinian State.

Mr. Abbas, who was expected to have talks with Mr. Blair and the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, ahead of the conference, said in a newspaper interview that he expected the London meet to "send a clear signal of international support of what we have already achieved'' in terms of the Palestinian commitment to the peace process.

"We believe peace is possible now and we are ready to negotiate with Israel to reach a true and lasting peace based on justice and international legitimacy,'' Mr. Abbas told The Independent. The U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, and the U.N. Secretary-General, Kofi Anan, are among those attending the conference but Israel has declined, and even Mr. Abbas was reported to be initially reluctant to attend amid scepticism about its agenda which is expected to focus on Palestinian reforms.

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