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Last Updated: Friday, 29 April, 2005, 12:34 GMT 13:34 UK
Putin offers to help Palestinians
Putin meets Abbas in Ramallah
Putin is expected to offer Palestinian security forces help
Russian President Vladimir Putin has offered a range of assistance to the Palestinians after talks in Ramallah.

He offered to help re-build Gaza's economy, train security services and sell helicopters to the Palestinians.

The last stage of his Middle East tour took Mr Putin to the West Bank where he met Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.

It was Mr Putin's first time in the Palestinian territories - a day after the first visit to Israel by any Russian leader.

"We support the efforts of President Abbas to reform the security services and fight against terrorism," said Mr Putin in a joint press conference with Mr Abbas.

"If we are waiting for President Abbas to fight terrorism, he cannot do it with the resources he has now.

We will give the Palestinian Authority helicopters and also communication equipment
President Putin

"We will give the Palestinian Authority technical help by sending equipment, training people. We will give the Palestinian Authority helicopters and also communication equipment."

There was no mention of an offer to supply armoured personnel carriers to the Palestinians, which Israel has strongly opposed.

Mr Abbas said the conditions were ripe for an international Middle East peace conference in Moscow, as proposed by Mr Putin. Israel and the United states had poured cold water on the plan.

Mr Abbas also said that the Palestinians were determined to have peace, and he called on the Israeli government to enter negotiations.

Chants from crowd

In Ramallah crowds of Palestinians greeted the Russian leader by chanting his name.

Mr Putin was welcomed by Mr Abbas and they inspected a Palestinian Authority guard of honour. The Russian leader went on to lay a wreath at the grave of former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

On Thursday, the Russian president sought to ease Israeli fears over plans to sell arms to Syria and give assistance to Iran's nuclear programme.

He said the arms were not a threat, but conceded that Iran's programme must be peaceful and internationally monitored.

Russia and Israel restored ties in 1991, but the Russian president's visit has marked a new phase in relations between the two countries. It was also the first visit by any Russian leader to Israel.

Mr Putin met President Moshe Katzav and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Watch Putin lay a wreath on Arafat's grave

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