Putin called for a West Asian peace conference

After staying on the margins for several years, Russia has begun a fresh effort to regain lost ground in West Asia with the visit of its President, Vladimir Putin, to Egypt, Israel and the Palestinian territories.

At a press conference in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, Mr. Putin called for a West Asian peace conference in Moscow this autumn. Striking an assertive note, he also advocated a greater role for the U.N. in Iraq.

Later in the day, Mr. Putin was due to visit Israel where talks with the Israeli Prime Minister, &to=http:// english.pravda.ru/main/2002/09/30/37457.html ' target=_blank>Ariel Sharon, have been slated for Thursday. Nearly a million Russian Jews have migrated to Israel, and now comprise nearly one-sixth of the country's population. Mr. Putin said the Foreign Ministers of the Quartet would meet in Moscow on May 8 to discuss the West Asia peace process.

Referring to &to=http:// english.pravda.ru/usa/2002/03/15/27007.html ' target=_blank>Iraq, both leaders proposed that the U.N. should play a more active role, informs the Hindi.

Putin made the proposal in Cairo before arriving on the first visit to Israel by a Kremlin leader. He made a midnight visit to Jerusalem's Western Wall, the most sacred site of Jewish prayer, the Kremlin said.

He went to the site after visiting a Russian Christian pilgrimage center that was due to be his last public stop for the day. A Kremlin spokesman said on the visit to the Western Wall Putin met a rabbi who gave him an album illustrating that part of Jerusalem.

Putin's proposal for a Moscow peace summit won backing from Palestinians but Israel was wary, saying it would oppose any effort to circumvent the U.S.-backed "road map" peace plan.

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