Natan Sharansky, a former Soviet dissident and now Israel's trade minister, Tuesday made an emotional trip around the city that he had not seen since KGB agents arrested him two decades ago.

He and his wife, Avital, walked through a snowy Moscow cemetery to pay their respects at the grave of Andrei Sakharov, the human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate who was his friend.Sharansky spent nine years in Soviet prisons before he was stripped of his citizenship and released in a East-West prisoner swap on a Berlin bridge in 1986.

He was denied permission to return for Sakharov's funeral in 1989. This is his first return to the land of his birth.

Sharansky, on a four-day official visit to strengthen trade between Russia and Israel, took time out Tuesday for a bus trip around Moscow that began with the visit to Sakharov's grave.

While cameramen and photographers crowded around, the 49-year-old Sharansky bowed his head and said a prayer in Hebrew for the man once described as his country's conscience.

"Andrei Sakharov had a great influence on a generation of people who found out that even in the most difficult situation you can live in accordance with your conscience, you can say things that you believe in and you can support . . . those who suffer," Sharansky said in the cemetery.

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"By this, his own example and his own words, he influenced thousands and thousands of people, and I am one of them."

Sharansky, who fought for the rights of Soviet Jews to leave for Israel, also visited Moscow's main synagogue, where he and other dissident Jews used to meet.

"Here was our Foreign Office," he said. "Here was where we organized how to send letters to the West . . . and here is where we planned our demonstrations."

Sharansky led a large delegation of Israeli officials and businessmen to Russia. He says Jews from the former Soviet Union now living in Israel - many of them highly educated but struggling to make ends meet - could be "a bridge" in business deals between the two countries.

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