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U.S. Jews to meet with Russian minister about rising anti-Semitism

WASHINGTON, March 16 (JTA) — Russia’s prime minister will be met with a barrage of criticism of his country’s policies when he meets with representatives from the American Jewish community during a scheduled visit to Washington next week. Yevgeny Primakov has agreed to a March 25 meeting with representatives from the National Conference on Soviet Jewry and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. Concerns about rising anti-Semitism in Russia tops the agenda. A bipartisan group of senators from the Foreign Relations Committee sent a letter to Vice President Al Gore, urging him to raise the issue of Russian anti-Semitism during meetings with Primakov. Gore heads a joint U.S.-Russian commission with Primakov. “There is a growing trend among extremist Russian politicians to lay blame for the country’s economic problems on the doorstep of the Jewish population,” said Sen. Robert Torricelli (D-N.J.). Citing recent incidents of anti-Semitism in Russia, Torricelli said, “These developments should send a warning signal, not only to Jewish people around the world, but to everyone who believes in the importance of religious freedom.” The Jewish groups also plan to discuss continuing Russian cooperation with Iran’s missile and nuclear industries. Former Soviet refusenik Natan Sharansky, on a visit to Washington in his capacity as Israeli minister of trade, expressed concern about the rise in anti-Semitism in Russia. Sharansky said that on a recent visit to Russia, authorities surprised him by acknowledging anti-Semitic incidents. “It is a very serious problem,” Sharansky was told, especially because it is spreading from the Duma to local governments. “We are afraid of pogroms no less than you,” Sharansky said the security officials told him. While in Washington, Sharansky penned two new agreements with the United States. In his capacity as Israeli trade minister, Sharansky signed a trade agreement Monday with the United States and Jordan that will allow tariff-free exports to the United States from an industrial zone that straddles the Israeli- Jordanian border. While Sharansky was in the United States, Israel and the United States also signed an antitrust agreement under which both countries pledged to share antitrust information and evidence with each other.

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