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Top officials heading to U.S. for Middle East peace conference

On November 27 representatives and leaders from 40 countries will gather in the U.S. city of Annapolis for a Middle East Peace conference. The talks will mainly focus on a Palestinian state, the status of Jerusalem, and the right of refugees to return.

Both the Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, and his Palestinian counterpart, Mahmoud Abbas, are at the conference.

Russia's Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, praised Washington's effort in bringing the two sides together for talks.

Lavrov said repairing the split between Hamas and Fatah cannot be ignored. He says “the desires of Palestinian people”, chief of which is “the creation of an independent state”, can only be met once the rift between the rival factions is healed. 

Several leading Middle Eastern powers are already in the U.S. for the conference in Annapolis, Maryland.

Syria also agreed to take part in the conference after Washington promised to devote a session to reviving Syrian-Israeli peace talks. However, Syria remains pessimistic about the outcome, claiming it's Israel which has been the main obstacle in the peace process for the last seven years.

However, Iran will not be attending. President Ahmadinejad warned that it was not the right time for Israel to be given concessions.