Putin visits West Bank, tours key Christian shrine

4:08 AM, Jun 26, 2012   |    comments
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BETHLEHEM, West Bank -- Russian President Vladimir Putin is touring the church built over Jesus' traditional birth grotto in the West Bank town of Bethlehem ahead of talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Tuesday's tour followed talks a day earlier between Putin and Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who urged Russia, apparently to little effect, to step up pressure on Iran to curb its suspect nuclear program.

Putin's meeting with Abbas is expected to focus on the deadlock over restarting Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, on hold for almost four years.

Russia is a member of the so-called Quartet of Mideast mediators, along with the United States, the European Union and the United Nations.

Of the four, Russia is seen as the most sympathetic to the Palestinians, but has little sway over the group.

By MOHAMMED DARAGHMEH, Associated Press

The Associated Press

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