- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 29, 2007

Local officials yesterday said Annapolis is well-situated to accommodate a Middle East peace summit planned for this fall at the Naval Academy.

Officials said that the city has experience dealing with large crowds and that the academy is already prepared to provide tight security for the event, which is tentatively scheduled for November.

“If we can’t secure the Naval Academy, then we’re in trouble,” said City Alderman Ross H. Arnett, a Democrat. He said hosting the conference would probably demand less from Annapolis police and Anne Arundel County Police than the 38th Annual U.S. Sailboat Show that starts Thursday.

“Compared to what they normally deal with at the boat show, this will probably be light duty,” Mr. Arnett said.

The academy, established in 1845, was selected to host the summit in part because of its proximity to the District — about 30 miles away — said a federal official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because details of the conference have not been announced.

A Naval Academy spokeswoman said she could not comment on the plans.

State Delegate Ronald A. George said the academy is a “good, secure location” and is ideal for such an event.

“The Naval Academy is very private,” said Mr. George, Anne Arundel Republican.

“It’s almost like you have Camp David,” he said, referencing the presidential retreat in Western Maryland. “But that’s for smaller groups of people.”

Ray Weaver, a spokesman for Annapolis Mayor Ellen O. Moyer, said that the city would welcome the summit but that the mayor had not heard of the plans yesterday afternoon.

“We would certainly welcome anything like that happening here,” Mr. Weaver said. “We would welcome any dignitaries and go out of our way to accommodate them.”

President Bush plans to bring together Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert at the summit for a fresh attempt at establishing an independent Palestinian state.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who will host the meeting, said that no invitations have been issued but that Mr. Abbas and Mr. Olmert have been meeting to work out proposals for the conference.

Maryland has played host to international diplomacy efforts many times before.

President Carter used Camp David in 1978 to broker a peace accord between Israel and the Palestinians. The two sides met again 20 years later with President Clinton on the Eastern Shore of Maryland for the Wye River talks.

President Clinton convened further Mideast peace talks in 2000 at Camp David between Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Annapolis, the state capital, has its own diplomatic history dating back to the powdered-wig era. Annapolis was briefly the nation’s capital from 1783 to 1784, and it was there that the Continental Congress ratified the Treaty of Paris, which ended the Revolutionary War.

The city also was where George Washington came in 1783 to resign his commission to the Continental Army, a move that signaled civilian rule would prevail in the new nation, not military rule.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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