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White House Questions Russian Proposal for Mideast Conference

The White House has expressed doubts about a Russian proposal for a Middle East peace conference, saying diplomats should focus on Israel's upcoming Gaza withdrawal.

Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested holding such a conference Wednesday after meeting in Cairo with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Both Russia and the United States sponsored the Middle East road map peace plan along with the European Union and United Nations.

Mr. Putin's talks in Egypt made him the first Russian leader to visit Cairo in four decades. He then went to Israel for talks Thursday with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon before he is to meet Friday with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank.

Mr. Putin is the first Russian or Soviet leader to visit Israel.