Russia turns down Sharon requests

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon faltered on Tuesday in an attempt to convince top Russian officials to drop their efforts to turn the Middle East peace "road map" into a binding United Nations resolution.

    Sharon failed to convince Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov

    Israeli officials said that Sharon got only cautious understanding but no compliance during talks that included a
    three-hour meeting on Monday with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin. 

    Sharon asked Putin to drop the resolution, Israeli officials said, and to add the Lebanese resistance group Hizb Allah and Palestinian movements to Russia's list of "terrorist" organisations.

    But the Israeli officials said that Putin and his Kremlin aides refused to offer an immediate response, sticking to a line that only "terror" organisations that operate in Russia would be recognised as such by Moscow. 

    The officials said there was also little compliance from Russian
    Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, one of the Russian initiators of a
    proposed UN resolution supporting the road map whom Sharon met on Tuesday.

    "The prime minister (Sharon) had a very frank discussion," with the Russian foreign minister, a senior Israeli official told AFP.  

    "We expressed once more our total opposition to the Russian
    proposal" that presents the Middle East road map before the United Nations.

    The Israeli official said that Ivanov told Sharon "he will consider our (Israeli) stand, but he did not say that Russia was convinced."

    Sharon's requests on the Middle
    East turned down by Russia

    In a last-minute push, Sharon was also due to meet on Tuesday his Russian counterpart Mikhail Kasyanov and Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov before flying back to Jerusalem. 

    Israeli officials said that Sharon wanted Putin to concede that the peace road map - which sees a Palestinian state formed within three years amid mutual concessions - was now in doubt amid the continued violence, and that a new approach was needed for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

    "We very clearly explained that Israel is opposed to the Russian proposal," an Israeli official said after Sharon-Putin talks on Monday. "It is my impression that the Russians understand our position better," the Israeli official added. 

    "We very clearly explained that Israel is opposed to the Russian proposal"

    Israeli official

    But defying those comments, there was no official confirmation
    from the Kremlin that Putin's position had changed, with the Kremlin press office refusing to comment on the Israeli official's statement when contacted by telephone.

    Russia presented the resolution on the Middle East road map to the United Nations on Thursday, sparking an angry response from Israeli officials.

    They said they prefer the peace plan to be enforced in the war-torn region by the United States and that approval from the United Nations - where Arab states have a strong voice - might force Israel into unwelcome commitments.



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