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Despite tensions, Russia seeks normal ties with NATO - Lavrov

RIA Novosti

06/05/2009 15:50 MOSCOW, May 6 (RIA Novosti) - Despite the latest flap with NATO over the expulsion of its diplomats from Brussels, Moscow seeks partnership with the alliance, Russia's foreign minister said on Wednesday.

"Our fundamental position is that we want a normal partnership with the North Atlantic alliance, based on mutual respect and mutual benefit," Sergei Lavrov said at a news conference.

The Western military alliance last week withdrew the accreditation of two Russian diplomats at NATO headquarters in Brussels. One of the two diplomats, who have been asked to leave Belgium, is the 23-year-old son of Vladimir Chizhov, Russia's EU envoy.

Lavrov said the expulsion was an attempt to disrupt the resumption of Russia-NATO relations suspended after Russia fought a brief war with Georgia over South Ossetia last August.

"This all fits in very well with a series of steps designed to prevent the resumption of regular cooperation within the Russia-NATO Council," Lavrov said.

Russia responded to the diplomatic scandal on Tuesday by withdrawing from a planned Russia-NATO Council meeting later this month. On Wednesday, Moscow also announced that it would expel two Canadian diplomats working in NATO's Information Office in Moscow.

Speaking about the Canadians, Lavrov said Moscow had to respond in this way.

"This is the law of genre, and our NATO partners, those behind the expulsion, could not have expected a different reaction," the minister said.

Lavrov dismissed speculation that the Russian diplomats were expelled over Russia's criticism of the NATO-led military exercise that was launched in Georgia on Wednesday. "I do not see any link here," he said.

But he said NATO's indulgence towards Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili was having an adverse affect on the alliance.

"The policy of indulging the Tbilisi regime hits NATO itself," Lavrov said. "It is very worrying to us."

Media reports have said NATO's expulsion of the diplomats was connected to a spying case involving an Estonian official.


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