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Lukashenko says Russian arms exporter breaks delivery terms

RIA Novosti

12/10/2007 18:43 MINSK, October 12 (RIA Novosti) - The Belarusian president accused Russia's state-controlled arms exporter Rosoboronexport of delaying deliveries and failing to honor its contractual obligations.

"Rosoboronexport not only violates delivery terms, but sometimes completely fails to implement contracts," Alexander Lukashenko told a news conference on Friday.

The Russian arms export monopoly was unavailable for comment.

Lukashenko also said that the failure of a unified Belarus-Russia state would spell his "political demise," and that the Russian leadership was not prepared to build a relationship based on equality. Two years ago, Moscow started "pulling out of treaties and agreements signed within the framework of the Union State," he said.

However, the Belarusian leader said that Russia remains an absolute priority of his country's foreign policy, and reaffirmed Minsk's commitment to defend Russia against a possible attack from the West.

The president, branded "Europe's last dictator" by Washington and banned from entering the EU and the U.S., said the West is irked by his independent policy, and that this point was also made to him by President Vladimir Putin recently.

Moscow had traditionally backed Minsk, despite Lukashenko's pariah status in the West, supplying it with energy at heavily subsidized prices. But Russia's decision to double the price for gas supplies to the country last year dealt a heavy blow to the Belarusian economy.

On Thursday, Lukashenko reaffirmed plans to build the ex-Soviet state's first nuclear power plant to ensure energy security against a backdrop of depleting fuel reserves and growing energy prices.

He had announced plans for a 2,000 MW nuclear power plant in April amid a dispute with Russia over prices for natural gas.

The plans for a nuclear power plant are controversial in Belarus, which was heavily affected by the devastating Chernobyl NPP accident in neighboring Ukraine in 1986. In April, on the anniversary of the disaster, some 2,500 people took to streets of the capital, Minsk, to protest against the project.

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