WASHINGTON – Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will attend an international donors conference next month in Cairo aimed at raising money to rebuild Gaza after Israel's recent military operations against Palestinian militants there, a senior Egyptian official said.
After meeting with Clinton at the State Department, Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit told reporters he had invited the secretary to the March 2 meeting and that she had accepted. Department spokesman Robert Wood said Clinton would like to attend but that details have not yet been finalized. Earlier, the department said the U.S. would be represented at a high level.
"The secretary will be coming to Cairo on the second of March," Aboul Gheit said. "We expect lots of commitments from everybody, lots of commitments for reconstruction."
There has not yet been any indication of how much the United States might pledge at the conference, but since Israel's 22-day incursion into Gaza began in late December, it has contributed nearly $60 million in emergency assistance for Palestinians in Gaza, including $55 million to the U.N. and the International Committee of the Red Cross for work they do in the territory.
"The needs of Gaza's Palestinians remain acute," the State Department said in a statement Thursday. "The U.S. government will continue to monitor the situation to judge what additional contributions would be the most helpful."
Aboul Gheit said he was pleased with the Obama administration's early stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, particularly its appointment of former Sen. George Mitchell to be a special envoy for the peace process.
"They understand very well this question and they know that they will have to exert pressure on two sides to achieve the objective of peace," he said, adding that he believed the administration would place more pressure on Israel to halt the construction of Jewish settlements in occupied Palestinian areas.
"They say they understand the problem of settlement activity and that it must come to an end," Aboul Gheit said. He declined to comment on prospects for the peace process in the wake of Israel's election that may result in a government less willing to engage in peace talks than its predecessor.
"Let's rebuild and reconstruct Gaza through the conference ... and then let's see what George Mitchell, as well as Hillary Clinton, as well as the administration will do in relation to the peace process," he said.
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