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Cairo Economic Summit Ends with Call for Peace Progress

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The Middle East-North African regional economic summit ended Thursday, with a declaration by delegates stressing the urgency of progress in the peace process, but stopping short of blaming Israel for the current stalemate.

The statement, whose wording was grappled with throughout the three-day meeting in Cairo, called for the removal of restrictions that are hindering development of the Palestinian economy. However, it did not specifically cite Israel for imposing the closure on the territories.

While the declaration did not call for peace negotiations based on the land- for-peace principle, it did affirm a commitment to the 1991 Madrid peace conference, and to U.N. Resolutions 242 and 338, which Arab states say explicitly call on Israel to adhere to the land-for-peace formula. Israeli officials see it differently.

Some 3,000 delegates from more than 80 countries attended the conference. The Israeli delegation included 100 business and political leaders.

In contrast to the previous two annual conferences, the atmosphere at the Cairo meeting was marred by heightened Arab-Israeli tensions surrounding the stalled peace process.

Still, Finance Minister Dan Meridor said essential contacts were made between companies, and he labeled the Cairo meeting an economic success.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Amre Moussa called for further regional development, but his remarks at a closing news conference focused on investing in projects that involved cooperation among Arab states.

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