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Israeli-Palestinian Peace Coalition Visits Moscow

Israeli and Palestinian moderates are in Moscow seeking a way to ease tensions in the Middle East. The visit is also aimed at increasing Russia's role in the peace process.

Palestinian Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo and former Israeli Justice Minister Yossi Beilin are leading the delegation of the Israeli-Palestinian Coalition for Peace. They are to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and with Russian parliament members.

A statement from the Foreign Ministry released ahead of the visit said Russia welcomes the initiative. It said such a constructive approach is especially important now when an escalation of tension in the region is "threatening to destroy all that is positive and all that has been accomplished with such difficulty through the Middle East peace process."

Russia, along with the United States, is an official co-sponsor of the peace process but has not played a major role in peace efforts. Nevertheless, Moscow has joined with Washington in promoting a plan put forward by Central Intelligence Agency chief George Tenet and former U.S. Senator George Mitchell. The plan calls for a halt to the violence followed by a series of confidence building measures that would include a freeze on Jewish settlements and the outlawing of Palestinian militant groups.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell has stepped up contacts with Arab leaders in a renewed bid to end the bloodshed.

The Arab press reports that Mr. Powell spoke by telephone over the weekend with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, Jordan's King Abdullah, Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Abdullah and Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher.

Last Friday, the American official expressed his concern about the spiraling cycle of violence and said he would be working to get both sides re-engaged.

The Israeli-Palestinian Coalition for Peace got together in January in an attempt to get the stalled peace process moving again after some 16 months of violence.