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Middle East Conference Won’t Disrupt Naval Academy Classes

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 26, 2007 – The U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., will operate pretty much business as usual tomorrow as national leaders gather there for the U.S.-sponsored international Middle East conference, academy officials said today.

Normal class schedules will resume as usual, although some classes are likely to monitor news coverage of The Annapolis Conference, Deborah Goode, an academy spokeswoman, told American Forces Press Service.

The biggest signs of top-level discussions taking place at the academy will be a the closing of a few local roads and the academy grounds to general visitors today and tomorrow, officials said. In addition, some academy facilities will be restricted during the course of the meetings.

Navy Vice Adm. Jeffrey L. Fowler, academy superintendent, called it a privilege to host the conference, to which 49 nations, organizations and individuals have been invited. “We are honored that the Naval Academy has been chosen as the setting for the Annapolis Conference,” he said.

Participants will include President Bush, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said in a Nov. 20 State Department briefing.

Also scheduled to participate will be “the Quartet,” made up of the United Nations, European Union, Russia and the United States; as well as members of the Arab League Follow-on Committee, the Group of Eight major industrialized nations, permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, and other key international officials, McCormack said.

Bush will deliver remarks to participants at a dinner to be hosted tonight in Washington by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Tomorrow in Annapolis, Bush and the Israeli and Palestinian leaders are slated to deliver speeches formally opening the conference.

"The Annapolis Conference will signal broad international support for the Israeli and Palestinian leaders' courageous efforts and will be a launching point for negotiations leading to the establishment of a Palestinian state and the realization of Israeli-Palestinian peace," McCormack said.

Olmert, who met with Bush yesterday at the White House, expressed hope that the conference “will launch a serious process of negotiations between us and the Palestinians.”

“This will be a bilateral process, but the international support is very important for us,” he said, thanking Bush and Rice for making the conference possible. The goal, he said, is “to come to this point where from we and the Palestinians will seek together, in Jerusalem, and work out something that will be very good to create a great hope for our peoples.”

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