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Russia Condemns Attack on Israeli Bus - 2002-07-17

The Russian ministry of foreign affairs Wednesday condemned an attack Tuesday on an Israeli bus that left eight people dead and at least 20 injured.

The spokesman for the foreign ministry, Alexander Yakovenko, said in a statement that this latest attack was "obviously aimed at scuttling international efforts to normalize the situation."

Mr. Yakovenko described the attack as an "open challenge" to the world community.

On Tuesday, Palestinian gunmen ambushed a bus full of Jewish settlers in the West Bank. It was the first major attack against Israeli civilians in almost four weeks.

The attack came shortly before a meeting in New York of the so-called diplomatic 'quartet' to discuss the Middle East situation. The 'quartet' is made up of top diplomats from the United States, Russia, the United Nations and the European Union.

In his statement, Mr. Yakovenko said it was not by chance that the attack came as the Quartet was scheduled to meet. But he emphasized that the violence should not derail the peace process.

The Russian spokesman called on both parties to show restraint and also said steps must be taken to "alleviate the humanitarian situation in the Palestinian territories."

As well as being a member of the quartet, Russia is a co-sponsor of the Middle East peace process. However, Russia's role is often overshadowed by the United States, the other co-sponsor.

Russian officials differ with the United States about the future of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. While U.S. leaders want him replaced, Russian officials as well as leaders from the EU and the U.N. have said it is up to the Palestinian people to choose their leader.