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Sunday, February 11, 2007

Putin starts landmark visit to Saudi Arabia

RIYADH, Feb 11 (Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin arrived in Saudi Arabia on Sunday in the first visit by a Russian leader to the kingdom.

His host King Abdullah, who gave Putin a red carpet welcome, urged Moscow in remarks published earlier on Sunday to stimulate an effort to revive the Arab-Israeli peace process.

"There is no doubt that Russia has an important role in achieving peace," the king said in an interview with Russia's Itar-Tass news agency published in Saudi media.

"We have to imagine the world with a fair, comprehensive and lasting resolution of this conflict."

Russia is a member of a quartet sponsoring Arab-Israeli peace which also comprises the United States, the European Union and the United Nations.

"We hope the Quartet's current effort to revive the peace process and concentrate on resolving the main issues at their root after partial solutions failed to achieve the required progress," he said.

Earlier this week, Saudi Arabia brokered a deal between Islamist Palestinian group Hamas and the U.S.-backed Fatah faction of President Mahmoud Abbas ending months of factional fighting and clearing the way for a national unity government.

Putin's trip marks growing political and commercial links between the world's top two oil producers. Riyadh and Moscow established diplomatic ties in 1926.

King Abdullah said he hoped the visit would further cooperation on oil, investment and air transportation. He did not giver further details.

Ahead of the visit, Putin attacked the United States saying that Washington was making the world a more dangerous place by pursuing policies aimed at making it the "one single master".

His remarks coincide with disagreement between Russia and the United States over the Iraq war and the nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea.
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