Shimon Peres Defends Use of Force

Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres defended Israel's use of rocket attacks against the Palestinians, saying Sunday that the assault was in retaliation for a deadly suicide bombing at an Israel shopping mall Friday.

"We don't take any actions on our own initiative," Peres, who arrived in Moscow Sunday for meetings on the Mideast violence, told reporters at the airport. "Our action is a reaction to Palestinian actions, which are very cruel and aggressive toward Israel."

He said he was looking forward to meeting with President Vladimir Putin on Monday and hearing Russia's view of the current situation in the Middle East.

"Russia is a country which experienced many wars and endured terror," Peres said. "It is a big country that is responsible for peace throughout the world, including the Middle East," he said.

Peres, a former Israeli prime minister, has repeatedly emphasized that Russia has been a constructive force in the Middle East in the post-Soviet era and that its policies complement those of the United States, which has taken a more visible role in the Mideast peace process.

Peres was in Moscow to meet Putin on Monday, then hold talks with Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov. He was also to meet with Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov and Alexy II, the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia.

Putin spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon by telephone on Saturday, and the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement that condemned terrorism but said that " the clearly improper use of military force by Israel is impossible to explain and justify."