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    ISRAEL'S DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER TO VISIT MOSCOW

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    TEL AVIV, February 11, 2004, /RIA-Novosti corespondent Ratmir Orestov/ -- Israel is directly interested in Russia's influencing Mideastern developments, Israel's First Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who also serves as the country's Industry, Trade, Communications and Employment Minister, said.

    Talking to reporters at a February 7 press conference in connection with his February 11 official Russian visit, Olmert said he intended to set forth the Israeli leadership's position in the context of the latest political changes during his talks with Russian officials.

    Among other things, Olmert will inform his Russian interlocutors about unilateral Israeli steps to ensure Israeli-Palestinian disengagement, including a concept of a plan for dismantling 17 Jewish kibbutzim in the Gaza Strip and building a security wall on the West Bank.

    Olmert voiced his sympathies in connection with the barbaric terrorist act inside a Moscow subway train, also voicing Israel's readiness to discuss possible bilateral cooperation as regards anti-terrorist experience exchanges.

    When asked by RIA-Novosti whether Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's recent statement to the effect that Israel won't accept any foreign mediation in settling the Mideastern conflict (except US mediation), Olmert stressed that the United States had boasted a special status in the eyes of Israel and Palestine alike for many consecutive years. At the same time, specific agreements must be attained by Israel and Palestine; and no mediators are needed for this purpose, Olmert went on to say.

    Talking about the agenda of his Moscow visit, Olmert noted that he will be accompanied by representatives of 80 Israeli companies. Israeli businessmen will negotiate with their Russian counterparts, discussing expanded cooperation in such areas as state-of-the-art technologies, electronics, communications, as well as oil-and-diamond production.

    According to Olmert, a multi-billion-dollar Israeli-Russian trade turnover seems possible; everything will depend on the ability of our businessmen to come to terms, he added.

    The potential of Israeli-Russian economic cooperation far exceeds present-day volumes. Some bureaucratic roadblocks should be eliminated in order to attain real-life business contacts; and this will facilitate the interests of either party, Olmert said in conclusion.

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