A meeting of the international Group of Four on the Middle East has begun in Washington. The meeting is being attended by Russia's Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, US Secretary of State Colin Powell, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and representatives of the European Union. The meeting is expected to finalise the "road map" on Middle East settlement.
At the same time, as Andrei Vdovin, a representative of the Russian foreign minister on the Middle East, told journalists on the day before, preliminary data indicate that the document will not be officially adopted at this meeting of the "quartet", and its approval is planned for the next meeting in February.
Speaking of the reason for the delay, Vdovin indicated that it was Israel's appeal to the four participants to put off adoption of the "map" until after elections in that country. "Although interest in the early launching of this document is great, one cannot fail to heed arguments that the use by certain forces of the map provisions in an election campaign may affect its implementation," Vdovin stressed.
The "road map" is aimed at ensuring before 2005 the enforcement of the concept of co-existence of the two states - Israel and Palestine.
An explosion of household gas occurred in a nine-storeyed apartment building in the city of Shakhty, the Rostov region of Russia. The blast destroyed two storeys of the building