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Medvedev seeks to boost Mideast clout in Egypt

RUSSIA: President Dmitry Medvedev was heading to Egypt on Tuesday to sign a strategic cooperation pact with Cairo and speak to the Arab League as Russia seeks to boost its diplomatic clout in the Middle East.

Russia's economic and trade ties and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are expected to be high on the agenda when he meets Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo, the first stop on a four-nation Africa tour.

"The signing of an agreement on a strategic partnership between Russia and Egypt will become the central event of th Cairo summit," the Kremlin said in a statement.

Medvedev's visit comes after a trip to Egypt by US President Barack Obama, who sought to reach out to the Muslim world in a landmark address in Cairo earlier this month.

Russia, part of the diplomatic "quartet" charged with settling the Middle East conflict along with the European Union, the United Nations and the United States, is eager to strengthen its diplomatic and commercial clout abroad.

Russia has long had friendly ties with the region, which used to be a stronghold of Soviet influence before the end of the Cold War and the subsequent surge of US dominance.

In an apparent effort to underscore the significance of Russia's ties with the Arab world, Medvedev was set to address the Arab League and meet its chief Amr Mussa.

Russia has been pressing for years to revive the dormant Middle East peace process and has been keen to host an international peace conference by the year's end.

Moscow, Tuesday, AFP

 

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