Archive for Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Putin seeks push for Mideast peace meeting

February 14, 2007

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— Jordan's King Abdullah II and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday called for a stronger international push for lasting Mideast peace and urged a diplomatic solution to Iran's nuclear standoff.

Putin said during a news conference with Abdullah that "support is growing" for a Russian proposal for a wide-scale Middle East peace conference that also would tackle ways to "conquer international terrorism."

Abdullah, a key U.S. ally whose country has diplomatic relations with Israel, said he and Putin also "agreed that negotiations for the establishment of a viable Palestinian state should be accelerated." The Jordanian monarch called the Palestinian-Israeli conflict the "core conflict" in the Middle East.

Putin, whose Mideast tour also included stops in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, later met with visiting Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and urged him to set up an "efficient" government that would be taken seriously by Israel to reach a final peace settlement. Abbas and his Fatah faction reached an agreement last week with the ruling militant Hamas to form a coalition Palestinian government.

Abdullah also said he and Putin discussed Iran's nuclear standoff with the West and "continue to believe that a diplomatic solution to this crisis must be found."

Also Tuesday, Putin renewed his criticism of the United States, suggesting the U.S. administration is wrongly portraying Russia as a threat in order to bolster requests for defense spending, Russian news agencies reported.

"It has come to the stage where under the pretext of a nonexistent Russian threat, they have begun to obtain resources in Congress for military needs for the operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, for the deployment of a missile defense system," ITAR-Tass quoted him as saying.

Putin, who lashed out at U.S. foreign policy Saturday in some of his harshest criticism of Moscow's Cold War foe, said he hoped that after his weekend comments the United States would begin to pursue relations with Russia on "an equal, friendly basis."

He criticized the "mentoring" tone the West has taken with Russia since the 1991 Soviet collapse.

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