US set to issue invites for Annapolis conference Tuesday

The United States plans to issue as early as Tuesday official invitations to a much-anticipated Middle East conference, hoping for strong backing from a select group of Arab nations for the US effort to relaunch Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. As the US finalizes preparations, the State Department will start sending out invitations overnight for the event, US officials said Monday. The conference will be held in Annapolis, Maryland on November 27 in between meetings in Washington. The main guests are the Israelis and the Palestinians, and the Bush administration also is inviting Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Syria and key international players in the peace process, the officials said. The invitations are to be sent by diplomatic cable to US embassies in the countries concerned, with instructions to Washington's ambassadors to present them to their host governments' foreign ministries, the officials said. They will ask that each nation send its highest-ranking appropriate official to Annapolis. The White House has said President George W. Bush will attend at least part of the event chaired by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who will also host a pre-conference dinner at the State Department on November 26, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of the announcement.