Russia planning 2009 Mideast peace conference

Russia's foreign minister said on Sunday his country was planning a Mideast peace conference for the first half of this year. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Arab nations and Israel would be invited. He added the conference will be a continuation of US-backed Israeli-Palestinian peace talks restarted in 2007, and an Arab peace initiative. Lavrov spoke while visiting Israel. He told Israeli President Shimon Peres on Sunday he hoped the new Israeli government will renew peace talks. According to a statement, Peres responded, "Our hand will always be extended in peace, but we cannot accept a situation in which rockets are fired at our citizens."