Russian, Israeli leaders seek answer to Mideast conflict
MOSCOW -- Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov focused on ways Tuesday to settle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Neither Sharon nor Ivanov spoke with reporters before or after their talks. The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the two had discussed security issues and methods of ending a two-year upsurge in violence.
"Progress in this direction would create good preconditions for achieving a final regulation of the Palestinian problem through the creation of a Palestinian state," the statement said.
Sharon returned to Israel on Tuesday and an aide said the Israeli leader had presented his view of a phased approach to ending the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, with Palestinians first stopping attacks on Israelis, then reforming their political system, and only then negotiating for a final settlement.
Sharon told Ivanov that in his opinion the Palestinians had been wasting time and could have gotten a lot closer to a settlement if they had taken this approach, the aide said on condition of anonymity.
Sharon's Monday meeting with President Vladimir Putin, originally scheduled to last 90 minutes, went on for 3 1/2 hours, a Sharon aide said. A senior Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Sharon and Putin had discussed Mideast and global security issues, but he did not give details.
The Russian daily Izvestia reported Monday that the Israeli delegation brought files proving links between Palestinian militants and Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. Ivanov, who took part in the talks, later told Russian television "no kind of concrete documents were passed along, but the prime minister expressed the deep anxiety of the Israeli leadership concerning the possible presence of weapons of mass destruction" in Iraq.