World Report

MOSCOW (JTA) — Belarus might become an arms supplier to the Middle East.

The president of Belarus, Aleksandr Lukashenko, recently wrapped up a trip to Tehran and Damascus during which he said he welcomed increased cooperation between the former Soviet republic and the two countries.

Some experts worry that Belarus, which has been increasingly ruled with an iron fist since Lukashenko took office in the summer of 1994, might become a conduit for Russian and Ukrainian arms technologies to the Middle East.

Indeed, in Damascus, where Lukashenko and Syrian President Hafez Assad signed an agreement on military and technical cooperation, the Belarussian leader said his country could provide equipment to substitute for the arms previously supplied to Syria by the Soviet Union — and, in more recent years, Russia.

Latvian Nazi veterans celebrate anniversary

MOSCOW (JTA) –Hundreds of Latvians who fought for Nazi Germany have gathered to commemorate the 55th anniversary of the founding of their unit.

Human rights groups and organizations representing Latvia's Russian minority had unsuccessfully tried to convince the Baltic nation's leadership to ban this week's commemorations.

Russian Jewish leaders condemned the rally. Alexander Osovtsov, executive vice president of the Russian Jewish Congress, expressed his "bewilderment and indignation" that the rally was held and lashed out at the Latvian authorities for allowing it to take place.

Russia's chief rabbi, Adolf Shayevich, compared the participants in the rally to "vampires who need fresh human blood and not only that of Jews."

The commemoration also drew criticism from the Russian Foreign Ministry, which said in a statement that the pro-Nazi unit was responsible for the deaths of "thousands of Jews, Russians and Belarussians."

The Latvian government said it would not participate in the events, but several high-ranking officials, including the deputy speaker of the Latvian Parliament, several legislators and the commander in chief of the Latvian armed forces were among those who attended the rally.

`Little Jerusalem' constructed in Moscow

MOSCOW (JTA) — A little Jerusalem now stands in the Russian capital.

With the dedication here of a new synagogue, built with money donated from a Moscow-based Muslim charity, there's now a complex with places of worship for three of the country's major faiths.

The three-story synagogue, decorated with a large, stained-glass Star of David on the front, stands next to a Russian Orthodox church and a mosque.

Dubbed "Little Jerusalem" by its developers, the complex is located in northern Moscow.

Jewish officials were perplexed by the gift from the Muslim group.

"It's a little odd that these people want to build synagogues," says Rabbi Berel Lazar, chairman of the Rabbinical Alliance of the Commonwealth of Independent States.

But he welcomed the gesture, saying that "any new synagogue in Moscow is needed."