The Latest: Omani official meets Netanyahu, sees ‘new era’



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WARSAW, Poland — The Latest on the international conference on the Middle East (all times local):

4:25 p.m.

Israel’s prime minister has held a rare public meeting with the foreign minister of the Gulf Arab state of Oman at a U.S.-sponsored Mideast conference in Poland.

In a video released by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office, the Omani foreign minister, Yusuf bin Alawi, said people in the Middle East have “suffered a lot” because they stick to the past. He said Wednesday’s meeting reflects a “new era” for the region.

Netanyahu paid a surprise visit to Oman in November, calling it a “courageous decision” by the country’s sultan to invite him.

Netanyahu frequently boasts of warming behind-the-scenes contacts with Arab leaders, who very rarely appear in public with the Israeli prime minister.

Netanyahu said “many” are following Oman’s lead, “and, may I say, including at this conference.”

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3:10 p.m.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s lawyer and former mayor of New York City Rudy Giuliani has called on a conference on the Middle East to take a “firm stance” on Iran to press its government to adopt a democratic course.

Giuliani spoke Wednesday in Warsaw to a few hundred participants at a protest by the National Council of Resistance of Iran, also known as the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, an Iranian exile group. He spoke just hours before an international conference on the Middle East opens in Warsaw.

He said he hoped the conference, just like the U.S. government, will be firm on Iran “so that we don’t do business with them, so that we isolate them, so that we do the best that we can to get them to change their policies, and if they don’t change their policies, to change the regime.”

He stressed to reporters he was speaking in a personal capacity.

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2 p.m.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence has arrived in Poland, starting a four-day visit to Europe in which he will take part in international conferences and visit the former Nazi German death camp of Auschwitz.

He landed at Warsaw airport in the early afternoon on Wednesday and was to meet in a hanger there with American and Polish troops.

In Warsaw, he will visit historic sites associated with World War II and take part in a conference Thursday on the Middle East. He will visit Auschwitz Friday and will then head to the Munich Security Conference.

His stop in Poland comes as Poland lobbies Washington for a permanent U.S. base on its soil.

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12:30 p.m.

The United States and Poland are kicking off an international conference on the Middle East amid uncertainty over its aims and questions about what it will deliver.

Initially it was billed by President Donald Trump’s administration as an Iran-focused meeting. The organizers have significantly broadened its scope to include the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the fight against the Islamic State group, Syria and Yemen. The shift was designed in part to boost participation after some invitees balked at an Iran-centric event when many in Europe are trying to save the 2015 Iran nuclear deal after last year’s U.S. withdrawal.

Yet the agenda for the discussions contains no hint of any concrete action that might result. Many of the roughly 60 countries participating will be represented at levels lower than foreign minister.


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