Iraq, Lebanon to stay away from Mideast peace conference

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BAGHDAD (AP) — An Iraqi foreign ministry spokesman says his government will stay away from a Mideast peace conference expected to take place in late June in the tiny Gulf Arab state of Bahrain.

The White House says it will unveil the first phase of its long-awaited peace plan at the conference, saying it will focus on economic benefits that could be reaped if the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is resolved.

Palestinian officials have said the plan ignores the Palestinian people's aspirations for an independent state.

Ahmad Sahhaf, the Iraqi spokesman, told The Associated Press Wednesday that the rights of the Palestinian people "must be protected."

His comments came a day after Lebanon's foreign minister said the country would also stay away from the conference because the Palestinians were not participating.

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