Russia Abruptly Pulls Plug on Technology Fair in Israel

Russian authorities canceled the first Russian technology fair in Israel three days before it was set to open. Officials announced the cancellation in Moscow on Friday evening after 39 Russian companies had already made preparations for the Russian National Exhibition. The fair was scheduled to open tomorrow at Tel Aviv's David Intercontinental Hotel for a three-day run.

Conference organizers believe the announcement was carefully timed to coincide with the Jewish Sabbath, which runs from Friday evening to Saturday evening, followed by the Russian day of rest on Sunday.

Many Russian government ministries were involved in organizing the fair. The Israeli sponsors included the Israel Export and International Cooperation Institute and the Israel Manufacturers Association.

The organizers of the conference, which was aimed at strengthening ties between Israel and Russia, were dogged by pressure that increased with the outbreak of hostilities in Lebanon. When the fighting was at its peak, Moscow's Communist Party published an announcement to the effect that now was the time to be supporting the people of Lebanon - not participating in an exhibition in Israel.

Sources doubt the Communist Party is powerful enough to have brought about the cancellation of the fair. As a result of the war, the number of exhibitors fell from 120 to 39, but the event was still considered both politically and economically important.