Moscow is concerned about the escalating violence in the Middle East and is ready for joint international efforts to resolve the crisis, a top Russian diplomat said Friday.
Following a deadly Palestinian suicide bombing, Israel declaredPalestinian leader Yasser Arafat an enemy and launched attacks on his headquarters on Friday.
Moscow "is extremely concerned over the alarming developments in the region," Interfax news agency cited the unnamed diplomat assaying.
This action "will not help the peace-making efforts made by Russia jointly with the United States, the United Nations and the European Union," he said.
Moscow officials "are thinking of taking joint parallel steps, in particular in the framework of the U.N. Security Council," the source said.
Russian ambassador in Tel Aviv Gennady Tarasov and Russian envoy in the Palestinian autonomous region are maintaining "continuous contacts" with the conflicting parties, he said.
Andrei Vdovin, Russia's special envoy in the Middle East, who was attending the Arab summit in Beirut, is planning to visit the Syrian capital Damascus on Friday. He may fly to Israel to meet the U.S. Middle East envoy Anthony Zinni later in the day, he said.
Vdovin's presence during the Beirut summit was the first time aRussian official was invited to attend the opening of an Arab summit. He was active "in behind-the-scenes consultations and meetings" during the course of the summit.
The Israeli operation against "the infrastructure of terror" inPalestinian territories "will take more than a day or a week; rather, it will last until the Israeli army achieves all its objectives," Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Natan Sharansky said inan Ekho Moskvy radio interview on Friday.
"No towns or villages or persons will be immune from our action.The war of terror against us has been raging for more than a year without end, so we decided to respond with a full-scale war," he said.
For the short term, Yasser Arafat will be kept in his Ramallah residence, Sharansky said. His office will be the only part of thecompound that Israeli troops will not touch, he said.
"There had been an argument at the Israeli Cabinet meeting lastnight about what to do with Arafat and a decision was made to define him as an enemy," Sharansky said.
"There is no question of killing Arafat. If, however, he takes a gun and fires at our men, we will have to respond, but I don't think he will go that far," he said.