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Saturday, July 19, 2008

Gordon Brown makes first Israel visit as British prime minister

http://zionism-israel.com/israel_news/2008/07/gordon-brown-makes-first-israel-visit.html

 Last update - 00:12 20/07/2008       
Gordon Brown makes first Israel visit as British prime minister
By Haaretz Service and Reuters
British leader Gordon Brown arrived in Israel for a two-day visit on Saturday, his first trip as prime minister.
 
Brown will discuss a way ahead in Middle East peace moves and announce new aid for the Palestinians.
 
During his visit, Brown will announce 60 million euros in new aid for the Palestinian Authority and he will become the first British prime minister to address the Israeli parliament, the officials said.
 
On Sunday, Brown will hold talks on the peace process with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, and take part in a British-Israeli business conference.
 
Brown's spokesman said the prime minister wanted to "discuss the way forward in the peace process" with Israeli and Palestinian leaders and to focus on economic reconstruction and development in the region.
 
Britain and the United States sponsored an investment conference in the occupied West Bank town of Bethlehem in May, at which private investors pledged to pump 1.4 billion Euros into Palestinian businesses to bolster the economy.
 
Brown has made strengthening the Palestinian economy a key plank of his policy towards the region, arguing that the political and security situation there can only improve if there is a strong and sustainable Palestinian economy.
 
Before giving a speech to the Israeli parliament or Knesset on Monday, Brown will lay a wreath on Sunday at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and visit the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, built on the spot where Christians believe Jesus was born.
 
Olmert said this week that the Israelis and Palestinians had never been so close to a peace deal, though problems still had to be overcome.
 
Olmert and Abbas launched U.S.-sponsored peace negotiations last year with the aim of reaching an agreement before President George W. Bush leaves office next January, but progress has been hindered by vehement mutual recriminations.
 
Brown, who succeeded Tony Blair as British prime minister in June last year, has seen his poll ratings plunge as the credit crunch and high fuel prices have hit the economy. His Labour party lags the opposition Conservatives by up to 20 percentage points in opinion polls.
 
Prior to his arrival in Israel, Brown met with Iraqi leaders less than a week after an announcement of expected British troop cuts in southern Iraq.
 
Brown was greeted in Baghdad's protected Green Zone by Iraq's prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki. There were no public statements following the meeting.


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