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Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura and U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright agreed Tuesday on the importance of providing assistance to Palestinians to strengthen the peace process in the Middle East, Foreign Ministry officials said.

Albright told Komura in a telephone conversation that improving the Palestinians’ situation is important for peace in the Middle East and expressed hope that Komura will attend an international conference Monday in Washington to promote assistance for them, the officials said.

Komura replied that he may not be able to attend the meeting because of the extraordinary Diet session set to open Friday, and explained Japan’s recent announcement of assistance for Palestinians, according to the officials.

Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi told U.S. President Bill Clinton last Friday at their summit in Tokyo that Japan will provide about $200 million over the next two years to the Palestinian Authority to strengthen the Middle East peace accord it reached with Israel last month.

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