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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Summit Calls for Mideast Cease-Fire

World leaders in Moscow for a summit on nuclear safety issued a joint statement Friday calling for an immediate cease-fire between Israeli and Hezbollah forces in southern Lebanon, following the deaths of about 100 civilians when Israel shelled a United Nations compound Thursday.

A spokeswoman for French President Jacques Chirac, who is co-hosting the Moscow summit with President Boris Yeltsin, said the statement was adopted during a Kremlin banquet for the leaders of the G-7 industrialized countries, according to Reuters.

"We call for an immediate cease-fire," the statement said.

The United States and Russia both sent their foreign ministers to the Middle East on urgent missions to restore peace.

As the leaders in Moscow issued their call, Israeli television announced that the two sides had agreed on a temporary cessation of hostilities for the duration of U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher's stay in the region, The Associated Press reported.

Although the Middle East dominated attention at the inaugural banquet, the summit was convened to discuss measures to improve safety at nuclear power stations and safeguard nuclear installations and materials. It will also devote a special session, which will be attended by Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, to plans who have been rocketing Israel from southern Lebanon and "the unconditional withdrawal of the Israeli troops'' from the area it occupies in Lebanon.

Yeltsin, seeking to restore Russia's influence on the Middle East peace process, issued a statement Friday calling for Israel to end its attacks immediately and sent Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov to the region to hold talks with the leaders of Israel, Syria and Lebanon.

"We have been shocked by this new tragedy in Lebanon," Yeltsin said. "The Israeli military operation on Lebanese territory must be stopped immediately. This huge violation of Lebanese sovereignty, resulting in a real human catastrophe, must be ended." He also called for an end to rocket attacks on northern Israel.

U.S. President Bill Clinton, speaking in St. Petersburg on Friday before flying to Moscow, also called for a cease-fire. "We pray, too, for an end to violence and the restoration of peace in the Middle East," Reuters quoted him as saying. Christopher is scheduled to begin his mission to the region Saturday. Similar calls were issued by Chirac and British Prime Minister John Major.

In a statement issued ahead of a formal dinner for the summit participants in the Kremlin on Friday evening, Yeltsin announced his backing for a world ban on all nuclear tests but said Russia reserved the right to resume them and leave a planned test ban treaty if its supreme interests were threatened.

"In the interests of speeding up preparations [for the treaty] ... I declare that Russia supports a ban on any test explosions of any nuclear weapons and any other nuclear explosions," Reuters quoted the statement as saying.

Earlier in the day Yeltsin held a series of bilateral meetings with Chirac, Major, German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chr?tien, Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto and European Commission President Jacques Santer.

He is due to have talks with Italian Prime Minister Lamberto Dini after the close of the summit Saturday and hold a separate bilateral meeting with Clinton on Sunday.

Analysts have said the timing of the summit provides a boost to Yeltsin's standing ahead of the June presidential elections, although G-7 leaders Friday dismissed suggestions they were in Moscow to provide support to Yeltsin's re-election campaign.

"It is not for anyone outside Russia to give support to anyone in the election. That is for the Russian people to decide," Major said after his meeting with Yeltsin, adding, that he wished the reform program in Russia to succeed.

Similar sentiments were expressed by Kohl, who also stressed his interest in the success of reforms, but went on to say that he regarded Yeltsin as the guarantor of their continuation, Interfax reported.

Asked by Chr?tien about his health during their televised meeting, Yeltsin declared himself "in fighting spirit, despite difficulties."

"I must be in good shape for a meeting as important as this," Yeltsin said.

Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov, who leads Yeltsin in the opinion polls, accused Western leaders Friday of attempting to use the occasion of the summit to exert influence on the outcome of the polls.

"Although the summit was planned long ago, some see it as providing support by the West for Boris Yeltsin -- or an attempt to put pressure on Russia," Itar-Tass quoted Zyuganov as saying. He said the current nuclear safety problems could be exploited by the West to interfere in Russia's internal affairs.

Major, who met Zyuganov as well as rival presidential contender Grigory Yavlinsky, was guarded about his impressions of the communist leader, saying it was "too soon to make conclusions." Zyuganov has also been invited to meet Clinton on Sunday, as has Yavlinsky.

Another prominent presidential candidate, the ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who has been excluded from any meetings with the G-7 leaders, reacted in characteristic style Friday, calling for the plenary session of the State Duma to be extended "for as long as the seven crooks stay in the country," Interfax reported.