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Israeli security key element in Russian policy - Olmert

RIA Novosti

19/10/2007 18:59 TEL AVIV, October 19 (RIA Novosti) - Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert gained assurances that Israel's security is a key element in Russia's Mideast policy during his short visit to Moscow, his press service said on Friday.

Olmert held a three-hour meeting with President Vladimir Putin on Thursday, discussing a wide range of regional and bilateral issues, including the prospects for an Israeli-Palestinian settlement and Russia's military cooperation with Iran and Syria.

"The prime minister expressed satisfaction with the meeting," Miri Eisen, the premier's press secretary, said. Russia showed that it "considers Israel's security interests as a substantial component of its policy in the region."

Olmert visited the Russian capital the day after U.S. State Secretary Condoleezza Rice had completed her visit to Israel to discuss with regional leaders the preparation of a peace conference planned for November-December in Annapolis, Maryland, and two days after Putin's visit to Tehran to attend the Caspian summit and hold talks with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The Annapolis conference is expected to result in a framework agreement on peace efforts. The Israelis want the document to set out broad settlement principles, while the Palestinians are seeking specific terms and conditions.

Talks between the Jewish state and the Palestinians were resumed when Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas broke with Hamas following the seizure of the Gaza Strip by the Islamist group, which left the president and his Fatah forces in control of only the West Bank.

The United States would like other key Arab states to attend the conference, but Arab nations are skeptical and have demanded more details.

Israel, anxious about Iran gaining access to non-conventional weapons, has urged Russia to use its influence to help solve the international standoff surrounding the Islamic Republic's nuclear program. Tehran insists its program is for energy production.

Russia, which is building a nuclear power plant in Iran, has long been criticized for assisting in the country's nuclear activities. Russia, along with China, has been opposed to tougher sanctions on Tehran in the UN Security Council.

During his previous visit to Moscow last October, which marked 15 years since the two countries restored diplomatic ties, Olmert secured Kremlin assurances that Russia would step up control over arms exports in order to prevent them from being sold on to third countries. Tel Aviv had claimed Islamic radicals in Lebanon had used Russian antitank missiles meant for Syria in attacks on Israel.

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