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Russia slams West, looks to China for support

by Staff Writers
Dushanbe (AFP) Aug 27, 2008
Russia on Wednesday lashed out against Western criticism of its actions in Georgia as President Dmitry Medvedev discussed the situation in the Caucasus with his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao.

"The Russian president informed his Chinese colleague about the situation in South Ossetia and Abkhazia," Kremlin spokeswoman Natalya Timakova said after the talks, referring to two Georgian rebel regions at the centre of the crisis.

Chinese officials declined to comment after the meeting.

The meeting in Tajikistan came on Medvedev's first foreign trip since fighting broke out earlier this month between Russian and Georgian forces over two regions that Medvedev recognised as independent on Tuesday.

US President George W. Bush called on Medvedev to reverse his decision, saying that it would exacerbate tensions in a volatile region. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner warned that it could lead to war.

On Wednesday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang was quoted by the official Xinhua news agency as saying that China was "concerned" about Medvedev's move but otherwise refrained from criticism.

He added that China hoped for "dialogue and consultation" on the issue.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov meanwhile rejected Western criticism on the sidelines of Medvedev's visit to the Tajik capital Dushanbe in scathing comments against British Foreign Secretary David Miliband and NATO. Lavrov said Miliband's criticism of Russia during a trip to Ukraine on Wednesday was "inappropriate" and "hypocritical."

He then drew a parallel between Russian military action in Georgia and Britain's war with Argentina over the Falkland Islands.

"It's strange that our actions to defend our citizens right on our borders should be criticised by Britain, considering its actions in the Falkland Islands, which are the other side of the world," Lavrov told reporters.

Miliband warned Russia not to start a new Cold War and said the West should use "hard-headed engagement" with Moscow.

Lavrov said Russia would cooperate with the West in international organisations "only to the extent to which its Western colleagues are interested."

The stand-off threatens to have far wider repercussions for already fraught relations between Russia and the West. Russia has frozen military ties with the NATO alliance and has accused the United States of rearming Georgia.

Abkhazia and South Ossetia are internationally recognised as part of Georgia and no country has followed Russia's lead to declare them independent countries.

The regions broke away from Georgian control after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Medvedev met with China's Hu ahead of a Thursday meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), a regional security grouping dominated by China and Russia that includes four ex-Soviet Central Asian countries.

The Russian and Chinese leaders talked about boosting the SCO, which was set up in 2001 as a counterweight to NATO influence in the strategic Central Asian region.

"The two sides talked about Central Asia and the need to strengthen the SCO in order to bolster security in the region," Kremlin spokeswoman Timakova said.

They also discussed trade and economic and energy ties, she said.

During his trip to Dushanbe, Medvedev was also due to hold bilateral talks with the leaders of Afghanistan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

Central Asian leaders have kept a low-profile during Russia's confrontation with Georgia.

The region has its own separatist issues and siding with Russia could harm vital economic and security ties with the West.

Medvedev on Friday was also due to visit a Russian military base in Dushanbe. Moscow has troops based in three military installations in this mountainous former Soviet republic, which borders Afghanistan and China.

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No signs Russia will tear up arms control treaties: US
Washington (AFP) Aug 25, 2008
The United States said Monday there were no indications Russia would renege on arms reduction pacts, such as the START I nuclear weapons treaty, following the conflict over Georgia but warned that such a move "will be crossing a new threshold."

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