Lebanon says yes to Annapolis
Beirut toes line set by Arab League, sends representative to US-hosted peace conference table. Syria expected to announce final verdict on its participation on Sunday. Meanwhile in Israel hundreds of left-wing activists rally in support of Olmert ahead of delegation's departure
"The Lebanese government will take part in the Annapolis conference in order to reiterate and emphasize the importance of the Arab peace initiative, which was first launched at the Arab League summit in Beirut in 2002 and which was sanctioned at the most recent Arab summit in Riyadh," Metri said in a statement.
The Lebanese statesman added that "Lebanese participation will take place without false pretenses. It is to stress the full national rights of Lebanon, Arab rights and the rights of the Palestinian people. The Lebanese delegation is going to Annapolis like the rest of the Arab delegations and will adhere to the Arab peace initiative and UN resolutions."
On Friday Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal announced that his country would participate in the conference in wake of the recent agreement reached by Arab League foreign ministers to support the US-led peace conference
It is still unclear if Syria will have a seat at the round table in Annapolis. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said that his country would only participate in the peace talks if the issue of the Golan Heights was on the table.
Hundreds call for peace outside PM's residence
Several hundred peace activists gathered in front of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's residence in Jerusalem Saturday night and called for Israel to make the most of the opportunity to strike a geniune peace deal with the Palestinian Authority at Annapolis.
Olmert is scheduled to leave for Washington on Saturday evening on his way to the much-hyped peace summit in Maryland. Several hours after landing on Sunday the prime minister will already be meeting with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
"We came to tell Olmert: Don't yield to the Right, go for the real thing," Geneva Initiative Director General Gadi Baltiansky told the amassed crowd. "There is a rare opportunity for peace the day after Annapolis to reach a permanent settlement with the Palestinians and a peace agreement with all Arab states," he said.
Other demonstrators requested that Olmert return from Annapolis with significant, meaningful achievements.
Yariv Oppenheimer, secretary-general of Peace Now, said that "the Israeli Right and radical Islam are working hand-in-hand to sabotage the Annapolis summit. Our job is to prevent this from happening and support a political process."
MK Ehphraim Sneh (Labor) also attended the rally and told protestors the prime minister and the defense and foreign ministers "have the wayfarer's prayer to leave in peace and return in peace and to come back peacefully means to bring with them tidings of peace and to begin the negation process for a permanent settlement."
Sneh added that over 5,000 Israelis and Palestinians have lost their lives in over seven years of conflict:
"There is no more time to waste. Today there exists a combination of four things: there is a Palestinian partner that really seeks peace, there is a majority in the Knesset for an agreement, there is international support, and regional support for this process and the majority of Arab ministers will be in Annapolis."
Efrat Weiss contributed to this report