The 18th century royal palace in the heart of the Spanish capital has been chosen as the site for the Middle East peace conference, sources close to the organization said on Saturday.
More than 4,000 journalists and photographers will operate out of a press center in the new wing of the Spanish Senate a few blocks away.Secretary of State James A. Baker III and Spanish Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez told reporters on Saturday that the conference site had not been decided on, but the sources said the choice already had been made.
Construction on the palace was begun in 1738, four years after the castle that had previously stood there burned to the ground.
The last king to live in what is called the East Palace, or Palacio de Oriente, was Alfonso XIII, who abdicated in 1931 when Spaniards voted for the Second Republic.
Alfonso's grandson Juan Carlos assumed the throne in 1975. He and Queen Sofia live in the Zarzuela Palace in a wooded area on the outskirts of Madrid.
The East Palace, located on the Plaza de Oriente and overlooking extensive gardens, is now used for ceremonial occasions such as state dinners. The king receives the credentials of new ambassadors there.
During much of his 36-year dictatorship, which ended upon his death in 1975, Gen. Francisco Franco would address crowds in the Plaza de Oriente from a balcony of the palace.