MOSCOW, Jan. 21 (JTA) — Many Russians believe life here would be better if it were not for the Jews. Some 36 percent of recent callers to a Moscow radio station said Russia would benefit if all Jews left for Israel. The radio station said a record number of 3,100 people called to voice their opinion on the issue Thursday during the daily show of the Moscow Echo radio station. The station posed the question about Jewish emigration after Israeli Foreign Minister Ariel Sharon, who visited Russia this week, urged Jews from Russia and other former Soviet states to immigrate to Israel. Concern about Russian attitudes toward Jews has prompted American Jewish activists to bring the issue to top U.S. officials. U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright told American Jewish officials on Thursday that she would discuss the recent rise in Russian anti-Semitism during a visit to Moscow that was scheduled to start Sunday. In addition to raising the issue with Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, she said she will appeal directly to the Russian people to exercise greater tolerance and oppose anti-Semitism. Albright also told the group that while she is planning discussions with opposition lawmakers, she will not meet with Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov because of his recent anti-Semitic remarks. Last fall, two other Russian legislators from the Communist Party made a series of anti-Semitic comments. Drawing international condemnation as well as criticism from President Boris Yeltsin’s government, the Russian Parliament failed to condemn those remarks. At a meeting in Washington on Thursday, the National Conference on Soviet Jewry and the Anti-Defamation League presented Albright with a paper on anti-Semitism detailing specific steps Russian leaders should take to combat the phenomenon. The ADL plans to conduct a poll on anti-Semitic attitudes among Russians in the coming weeks. In Moscow, meanwhile, Sharon discussed the Middle East peace process with Primakov. Primakov told Sharon that Russia wanted to play a more active role in the region. Primakov, a longtime Middle East expert who is known as an Arabist, said Russia strongly supported the land-for-peace formula in the Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement. Sharon welcomed Russia’s desire to revive its influence in the region and said Moscow should use its close ties with the Palestinians to prevent the Palestinian Authority from taking unilateral steps, such as declaring independence. Sharon and his Russian hosts also discussed bilateral relations, the rise of anti-Semitism in Russia and security issues, including international terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East. In talks with Primakov and Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, Sharon touched on the sensitive issue of Russian help for Iran’s nuclear and missile programs. Last week, the United States imposed sanctions against three Russian scientific institutes, accusing them of helping Tehran with dual-use technologies. Last July, the U.S. imposed sanctions on seven Russian research and manufacturing enterprises for the same reason. Russia categorically denied the accusations. Some officials maintained that the sanctioned entities could not have supplied sensitive technology to Iran since such technology is not available to them. Moscow says it is helping Iran to build a nuclear plant but that the program has no military purpose and does not violate any international non-proliferation agreements. Concerning the recent surge of anti-Semitic incidents, Sharon said his hosts strongly condemned anti-Semitism. He especially praised Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov for his “firm stand” on the matter. Sharon said, however, that he did not believe Russia was doing everything possible to curb anti-Semitism. “I told [Russian leaders] that it is not enough to voice protest. Concrete acts should be performed.”
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