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By Vladimir Isachenkov

Russia laments Israeli attack on Arafat's residence

Associated Press, March 29, 2002

TBILISI, Georgia (AP) - Russia expressed concern Wednesday over U.S. plans to MOSCOW - Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov on Friday lamented Israel's attack on Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's residence, saying that the spiraling Mideast crisis can't be solved by military force.

The Israeli attack on Arafat's West Bank compound "isn't a way that could help find a political solution," Ivanov said at a news conference. He said that the solution "must be searched for through dialogue, including with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat," he added.

Ivanov said that Russia was conducting consultations with the United States, European nations and others to stop the escalation of violence.

Israel's Cabinet formally declared Arafat an enemy Friday and Israeli troops stormed his headquarters in Ramallah.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon announced that Arafat would be completely isolated "at this stage" and left open the possibility that the Palestinian leader could be expelled later from the Palestinian territories.

Israeli Cabinet Minister Natan Sharansky told Echo of Moscow radio Friday that Israeli troops wouldn't seek to kill the Palestinian leader, but "if Arafat takes up arms and fire at our troops, we naturally will have to respond," he said.

"I don't think it will come to that," he added.

Vladimir Lukin, a deputy speaker of the Russian parliament's lower house, said that the Israeli attack on Arafat's compound was a justified response to the latest series of Palestinian terror attacks, which killed 30 Israeli civilians in three days.

"Now it is not clear who can sit down to the negotiating table on the Palestinian side because Yasser Arafat has demonstrated his impotence and no other negotiators are visible," he said, according to the Interfax news agency.

"Primarily, it is a political and diplomatic flop for the United States, because Americans with their inherent confidence in their ability to resolve everything assumed the lion's share of responsibility for the settlement of the conflict," said Lukin, who served as Russia's ambassador to the United States in the early 1990s.

Russia is an official co-sponsor of the Mideast peace process launched in 1991 but has played a far smaller role than the United States.

The Palestinian ambassador to Moscow, Hairi al-Oridi, called on Moscow on Friday to send to the Middle East "an authoritative representative, who knows the situation in the Middle East and could help stop the bloodshed," Interfax reported. It said that al-Oridi had in mind former Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, who forged close ties to Arab governments as a top Soviet diplomat.

See also:
Mideast Peace Process

Associated Press, March 29, 2002

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