Wed, Dec 24, 2008 - Page 6 News List

Abbas, Medvedev discuss Middle East peace plan

AP , MOSCOW

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday discussed ways to cooperate on Middle East peace.

Medvedev said Russia was ready to continue working with the Palestinian authorities to help peace efforts.

“We hope we will continue to cooperate productively, especially as the number of problems we are facing haven’t become smaller,” Medvedev said at the start of his Kremlin talks with Abbas.

“We need to move forward, so we will discuss issues related to the Middle East settlement and the Palestinian-Israeli dialogue,” he said.

Russia is a member of the so-called Quartet seeking to broker peace in the Middle East, along with the US, the EU and the UN. Moscow hopes to host a Middle East peace conference next year.

Unlike other Quartet members, Russia has maintained a dialogue with Hamas, the militant Islamic party that controls the Gaza Strip, and that could give Russia considerable influence as mediator.

Abbas visited Chechnya as part of his three-day trip, which began on Saturday. He told Medvedev the trip was “useful.”

Abbas also met Medvedev’s predecessor and mentor, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, thanking Moscow for political, economic and security support.

Meanwhile, Russian news reports were quoting a senior government official as saying the military would commission 70 strategic nuclear missiles over the next three years.

They quoted Vladislav Putilin as saying the government has decided to spend about 4 trillion rubles (US$141 billion) on new weapons over the next three years.

He was quoted as saying after Monday’s Cabinet meeting that the money will buy 70 strategic missiles and 30 short-range Iskander missiles among other military hardware.

The number of missiles mentioned by Putilin indicates the government’s intention to significantly increase the tempo of rearming Russia’s Strategic Missile Forces.

Putilin is a deputy head of the Cabinet’s military-industrial commission in charge of weapons industries.

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