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Trade Leaders Call for End to Barriers, Including Boycott

Trade leaders from the United States, Israel, Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority concluded an unprecedented meeting this week with a call to end all trade barriers in the Middle East, including the Arab boycott of Israel.

Participants at the discussions on economic cooperation and development issued a communique advocating increased competition, private-sector development and mutual cooperation.

The meeting at Taba, the Red Sea resort, ended Wednesday.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Ron Brown, who was visiting the region and participated in the talks, hailed the meeting as “historic.” He said it would usher in a new era of economic and commercial ties. The meeting was described as a follow-up to last November’s regional economic conference in Casablanca, and a prelude to a meeting scheduled for next year in Amman.

At a meeting in Washington last month, representatives of 39 nations and organizations agreed that Arab countries must lift their boycott of Israel in order to reap the fruits of a proposed Middle East regional development bank.

One joint project that came out of the meeting in Taba was the construction of a power station in the Sinai, which would be built with American equipment. The station would provide electricity to Egypt, Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian autonomous regions, Israel Radio reported.

The parties also decided to establish a computerized database that would provide regional industrial and economic information to potential investors.

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