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    ISRAEL'S VICE-PREMIER CALLS RUSSIA TO STEP UP MIDEAST EFFORTS

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    TE4L AVIV, FEBRUARY 8 (RIA Novosti correspondent Ratmir Orestov) - Israel is vitally interested in Russian influence on Mideastern developments, says Ehud Olmert, Israel's First Deputy Prime Minister, and Minister of Industry, Trade, Communications and Employment.

    He addressed a news conference in Tel Aviv, yesterday, a propos his official visit to Moscow, due February 11. As he faces high Russian officials, Mr. Olmert will offer them an account of Israeli governmental stances in the context of the latest political changes, he said.

    In particular, he will inform the host party about Israel's unilateral steps for Israeli-Palestinian demarcation, including a concept to dismantle 17 Jewish settlements in the Gaza strip and build a West Bank wall.

    Ehud Olmert is indignant with a heinous terror act in the Moscow metro, Friday last. He is anxious to discuss prospects for Russian-Israeli anti-terror knowhow exchanges, he added.

    Israel will not put up with any foreign mediation in Mideastern conflict settlement except the USA's, Prime-Minister Ariel Sharon recently said. Our correspondent asked the Vice-Premier whether the statement holds valid to this day. As Mr. Olmert emphatically said in reply, the Israeli and Palestinian public opinion has ascribed a unique status to the United States for many years. Nevertheless, agreements on the issue are up to Israel and Palestine alone, and they have no need for go-betweens.

    As for basic items on the upcoming Moscow agenda, close on eighty Israeli-based companies will accompany Ehud Olmert on his visit to meet with Russian colleagues and debate prospects for closer partnership in electronics, communications and other high-tech industries, as well as petroleum drilling and diamond mining and cutting.

    The Israeli-Russian trade turnover has every chance to rise to several billion US dollars a year-if only businessmen find common language. Bilateral economic partnership has a vast potential, far greater than its current scope. Progress demands bureaucratic obstacles removed to either country's benefit, stressed Mr. Olmert.

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