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Russia to Train, Equip Palestinian Security Forces

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday his country will give equipment and training to Palestinian security forces. Mr. Putin also offered to help rebuild Palestinian areas damaged by four and a half years of conflict with Israel. The statement came at a joint news conference with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah at the end of the Russian leader's three-day visit to the region.

The Russian president said his country would help rebuild Palestinian infrastructure in the Gaza Strip, an apparent offer to help maintain order and provide services after Israel pulls out of Gaza this summer. He called on both the Palestinians and Israelis to work to get the peace process back on track.

"The whole civilized world is on this way and we hope that both Israel and Palestine will also take the same way," he said.

For his part, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said both sides should push ahead and realize commmitments they have made.

"We are insistent [we insist on] to achieve peace and we call [on] the State of Israel to implement the Road Map, to speed up implementation of [the] Sharm el Sheikh accord and to [re]inforce our efforts for us and them," said Mahmoud Abbas. "It is a great chance."

Vladimir Putin reviews a Palestinian honor guard in Ramallah
During the news conference, Mr. Putin said his country intends to continue helping Iran develop its nuclear program, a program that he says he believes has a peaceful intent.

Israeli officials have expressed concern that Iran would use the technology to make nuclear weapons, a charge the Tehran government denies.

Mr. Putin stressed that he believes the components of Iran's program do not threaten Israel's security.

Mr. Putin is the first Kremlin leader to visit Israel and the Palestinian territories. He arrived at the offices of President Mahmoud Abbas with a plan to sell 50 armored personnel carriers and two helicopters to the Palestinians to replace vehicles destroyed during more than four and one-half years of Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

But Israeli objections to the armored vehicle sale leave its future in doubt and Mr. Putin ended his stay with no mention of a sale.

Israel fears the vehicles could fall into the hands of militants.

Mr. Putin also came here with an offer to host a peace conference in Moscow. The idea was welcomed by the Palestinians but rejected by Israel and the United States. U.S. and Israeli officials say the time is not right for such a meeting.

In addition to Russian support for Iran's nuclear program, Israel also objects to Moscow's plans to sell anti-aircraft missiles to Syria.

Mr. Putin said Thursday that Russian aid to Iran and Syria are not a threat to Israel, although he acknowledged that Tehran must do more to assure the world it is not building nuclear weapons.