Sharon pitches peace plan in Moscow
By Steve Rodan
SPECIAL TO WORLD TRIBUNE.COM
Monday, April 12, 1999
JERUSALEM -- Foreign Minister Ariel Sharon began talks in Moscow
on Sunday in an Israeli initiative to end NATO's offensive against
Yugoslavia, sources said.
The sources said that over the next three days Sharon plans to discuss
a proposal for NATO to end the fighting and Yugoslav President Slobodan
Milosevic to agree to full autonomy for Kosovo Albanians and a return of
those expelled from the province.
Sharon, the sources said, has been in contact with both Belgrade and
Washington regarding the issue. They said both Russian Foreign Minister
Igor Ivanov and Milosevic are interested in pursuing Sharon's efforts.
The foreign minister is also pursuing efforts to win the release of
three U.S. soldiers captured by Yugoslavia on March 31. On Saturday,
Cypriot parliamentary speaker Spyros Kyprianou left Belgrade after he
failed to secure the release of the prisoners.
"Arik Sharon has the trust of Milosevic," a source close to the foreign
minister said. "He will be the one to build some arrangement in Kosovo."
Israeli officials did not deny that Sharon was seeking to find a way to
stop the NATO offensive. But some of them doubted that an Israeli
initiative could work.
"It sounds to me very grandiose," a senior government source said. "I
don't think we have that kind of influence."
Senior officials said Sharon was invited to Moscow by Ivanov and the
focus of the talks will be efforts to halt the transfer of Russian
technology to Iran's missile and nonconventional weapons program. They
said the program combines the threat of more U.S. sanctions on Russian
companies along with the offer of international aid and investments.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu denied reports that Sharon
planned to sign an agreement on space cooperation with Russia during his
current trip to Moscow.
Earlier, Sharon said the purpose of his visit is to stop the flow of
Russian technology to Iran, in part, by offering incentives to the
government in Moscow. "I am traveling to Russia," Sharon told Israel
Radio on Sunday, "and I want to stress this, in coordination and with
the complete agreement of the American government to promote the vital
interests of Israel, which is also the American interest -- the
reduction of the Iranian danger as much as possible."
Former Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said the Israeli flirtation with
Moscow is hurting ties with the United States. "This is something that
has never been heard before," Peres said in a radio interview, "to
weaken and even endanger our ties with the United States, both
psychologically and politically. We are losing the most important
political asset. Our close ties with the United States also helped us
Monday, April 12, 1999