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Blair in Nablus: Israeli checkpoints harming Palestinian economy

Sept. 4, 2008 2:52 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 4, 2008 2:52 P.M.)
Nablus - Ma'an - Israeli checkpoints are hindering the economy of the city of Nablus, Quartet Envoy Tony Blair said during a surprise visit to the city on Thursday.

The former British prime minister also said that up to two billion dollars in investment could result from a follow-up economic conference that is planned to take place in the city this coming November.

During a press conference at An-Najah university, Blair also praised the work of the Palestinian Authority's security forces, who were charged with restoring order to the notoriously rebellious city last year.

Blair was joined by Nablus Governor Jamal Muhesein, University President Rami Al-Hamdallah, multimillionaire Munib Al-Masri, and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the University Salah Al-Masri.

Blair said that investors are prepared to put their money in the city, and to demand freedom of movement in the metropolis, which is virtually surrounded by the Israeli military.

Asked about Palestinian-Israeli peace talks, Blair said that he is optimistic, and that his presence in Nablus is a sign of progress.

Al-Hamdallah said the November investment conference, a sequel to a major investor's meeting in May, will aim to raise funds for industrial, commercial, and agricultural projects in Nablus. The meeting will be held at An-Najah University.

Al-Hamdallah thanked Blair for his efforts exerted towards removing the so-called Checkpoint 17, to the north of Nablus, and the Shafi Shamron checkpoint to the south of the city, urging him to continue to pressure Israel to remove closures from around the city.

Munib Al-Masri said that 400 to 500 Palestinian, International and Arab investors are expected to attend the conference, which is backed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

Earlier Blair met with the governor of Nablus along with seventeen Palestinian businessmen from the northern West Bank including Munib Al-Masri, Ziad Anabtawi and Salah Al-Masri.

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