Russia draws 'red line' on Kosovo, US missile defence: Lavrov

Russia will not back down on "red line" issues including the future of Kosovo and opposition to US plans for an anti-missile defence system in central Europe, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Monday.

Russia draws 'red line' on Kosovo, US missile defence: Lavrov
Russia will not back down on "red line" issues including the future of Kosovo and opposition to US plans for an anti-missile defence system in central Europe, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Monday.

"There are so-called 'red line' issues for Russia," Lavrov said in a speech at a Moscow's main university for international relations. "There we cannot fail to react and we must stick to our position to the end."

"Russia does not horse-trade and our international partners must understand that," he added.

The comments were the latest sign of Moscow's hawkish opposition to key areas of US foreign policy under President Vladimir Putin, who is using massive oil and gas revenues to rebuild Russia's military and restore diplomatic clout.

Lavrov said that some were worried by "the rapid rebirth of our country as one of the leading countries of the world. However, this does not mean that it's necessary to think up yet another myth about the Russian threat."

Moscow, a close ally of Serbia, earlier this month refused to vote for a Western-backed UN Security Council resolution that would grant independence to Kosovo, an ethnic-Albanian dominated province in southern Serbia.

Washington has also taken a hard line on Kosovo, suggesting it could unilaterally recognise independence for the province if the United Nations fails to do so.

Lavrov's inclusion of missile defence as a "red line" issue added fuel to a deepening diplomatic row over Washington's wish to deploy a missile-tracking radar in the Czech Republic and anti-missile rockets in Poland.

Russia describes the system as aimed at its own massive nuclear force. However Washington says the shield would be aimed only at smaller military powers posing a potential threat to Europe, and would be far too small to threaten Russia.

Lavrov also used his speech to lash out at attempts by key US ally Britain to extradite an ex-KGB officer over the murder of fugitive Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko.

"It's a pity that in the absence of convincing proof of (the suspect's) guilt, London decided on a noisy propaganda show," Lavrov said.

London has filed murder charges against KGB veteran Andrei Lugovoi, who lives in Moscow, over the radiation poisoning murder last year of Litvinenko, a former Russian secret services officer granted political asylum in Britain.

Russia has so far refused to extradite Lugovoi, who denies killing Litvinenko.

"Great Britain has become a voluntary, or involuntary actor in a provocation against Russia," Lavrov said.

Britain has given political asylum to several high-profile opponents of Putin, notably fugitive businessman Boris Berezovsky and Chechen rebel leader Akhmed Zakayev.

AFP
Last Mod: 03 Eylül 2007, 15:38
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