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    Israel has 'no objections' to Mideast peace conference in Moscow

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    TEL AVIV, January 28 (RIA Novosti) - Israel has no objections in principle to the holding of an international Mideast peace conference in Moscow, the deputy director general of the Israeli Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday.

    "We have never objected to a conference in Moscow. But we believe it is necessary to hold it at the proper time, and we are very much concerned about who would take part in it. If we are talking about a meeting in the same makeup as in Annapolis, I think there are no problems for us here," Pinchas Avivi said.

    Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian National Administration leader Mahmoud Abbas announced the resumption of talks to settle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at a U.S.-hosted conference in Annapolis, Maryland in November 2007. The sides gave themselves a year to reach a peace agreement, but were unable to do so.

    "I would say the same about a conference in Paris, New York or any other place," Avivi went on. "We are ready to support any positive initiative by any country in the world," he said.

    Russia says its proposal to hold a Moscow Mideast peace conference has acquired an additional urgency in light of the recent Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip.

    The diplomat also said Israel would object to the Palestinian radical Islamic movement Hamas, which has controlled the Gaza Strip since summer of 2007, participating in any Moscow conference.

    "From our viewpoint, this is a terrorist organization. We do not want to sit side by side with Hamas at any international forum," he said, adding that Russia was making a mistake by not recognizing Hamas a terrorist organization.

    Avivi also said Russia's position during the recent Gaza crisis had been "positive and fruitful."

    Over 1,300 Palestinians were killed during Israel's more than three week long military operation in the Gaza Strip. Israel said Operation Cast Lead was aimed at stopping rocket and mortar fire from Gaza toward south Israel. A truce was announced January 18. However, violence has recently flared up on the Israeli-Gaza border.

    "It is important not to allow the fragile Gaza truce to collapse," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday.

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