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    RUSSIA'S FOREIGN POLICY BASED ON NATIONAL INTERESTS

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    MOSCOW, March 17, 2004 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's newly appointed Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov's statement that no drastic changes can be expected in Russia's foreign policy after his appointment, testifies that our national policy does not depend on the external circumstances and is oriented towards national interests. Chief of the State Duma international affairs committee Konstantin Kosachev said this in a RIA Novosti interview on Wednesday.

    He remarked that Mr. Lavrov's statement on the succession of Russia's foreign policy is a cardinal point of today's press conference of the new minister and testifies that this policy was not based on subjective approaches but on fundamental national interests and their adequate perception.

    When commenting on Mr. Lavrov's statement about the US criticism of Russia's election campaign, Mr. Kosachev remarked that the foreign minister had maintained a position in favor of discussing claims of the kind, only if they are specified.

    "It would be a mistake on behalf of Moscow to isolate itself from a dialogue with the outside world on any issues, including the internal political situation of Russia," the deputy believes. "Separately, Moscow cannot admit the patronizing tone of these claims, let alone an unsubstantiated assessment," stressed Mr. Kosachev.

    He added that Russia was ready to hear recommendations on possible imperfections in its legislation to be able to remedy the situation.

    At the same time, Russia does not understand the willingness of some Western observers to demand unconditional and automatic compliance with the norms applied in the West. "Their demands that Russia base it internal policy on Western principles are a mistake," said the head of the committee.

    He added that Western observers' viewpoints were biased for the most part. "There are some characters specializing on Russia and earning their own political points by exaggerating negative trends in Russia's development and keeping mum about some positive shifts in our country," said Mr. Kosachev. "Such a black-and-white approach is inadmissible for Russia," he added.

    Mr. Lavrov's statement about the coordinated schedule of his meetings with his American counterpart - US Secretary of State Colin Powell - suggests that there is no crisis in Russia-US relations, said Mr. Kosachev.

    He continued that Russia and the United States could still discuss any, even the most unpleasant issues, as it should be between partners and allies.

    Mr. Kosachev also pointed out that the schedule of Russia-US meetings looked very busy despite the United States' upcoming presidential elections due in November 2004. He stressed that it was very important for Russia not to waste time and develop bilateral contacts, without a pause for the presidential elections.

    He is convinced that there are two many serious issues in bilateral relations, and the countries cannot afford to have a break.

    Mr. Kosachev recalled that besides the meetings between Russia's foreign minister and the US secretary of state, G8 leaders would also have a meeting to be attended by Vladimir Putin and George Bush.

    The deputy opined that Mr. Lavrov's meetings with Mr. Powell would highlight arrangements for the Russian-American summit.

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