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    A DETERMINED ROMANTIC BECOMES HEAD OF THE RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY

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    MOSCOW (Marianna Belenkaya, political observer, RIA Novosti).

    Everyone present at the first press conference of the new Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov in Moscow tried to draw a psychological portrait of the new cabinet member. It turned to be at least as interesting, as his professional qualities. Earlier, journalists pointed out that Lavrov was "correct, reserved, professional, witty, intelligent." On Wednesday, however, another Lavrov's feature - quite rare among politicians these days - was demonstrated at the Foreign Ministry Press Center: his extraordinary willingness to answer questions by the press. Several times he stopped his press secretary, who was trying to close the conference. And, the more difficult, the more tricky these questions are, the more does the minister like to answer them. Being a witty and resolute man, he appreciates the same qualities in his interlocutors.

    Humor is a valuable quality for a diplomat. Journalists accredited in New York remember Lavrov's caustic jokes addressed to his opponents. Once, for instance, the US representative at the UN compared Russia's efforts to lift sanctions against Iraq (it all happened before the war) with an attempt to approve the work of a restaurant where diners find cockroaches in their soup. "Well, we do not demand to give five stars to Iraq" - Lavrov retorted - "we want it to be regarded at least as a Kentucky Fried Chicken." Still, it is not just humor that the media corps and his colleagues diplomats respect Lavrov for. "From the moment when Lavrov was sent on a mission to New York in 1994, he made it clear that Moscow would regain its positions on the international arena lost after the collapse of the USSR" - this characteristics of the new Foreign Minister belongs to a Reuters correspondent permanently working at the UN headquarters. And this is the highest esteem for a diplomat whose duty is to defend his country's interests. One can only add that the feeling Lavrov had cultivated among journalists in 1994, proved absolutely true in 2004, when he left his post. Today the international community does listen to Moscow's opinion. Of course, it is not Lavrov's personal merit: it is an achievement of the country's foreign policy as a whole, which, according to the new Russian Foreign Minister, is determined by the President. But all these years Lavrov was Russia's mouthpiece at the UN. And, one should admit, quite a charming mouthpiece. Another important thing is that the Minister uses human language, rather than the bureaucratic one. This catches the eye at once. It is a plus not only for the journalists, but for ordinary people as well. Maybe, if Lavrov becomes a frequent guest at TV shows, foreign policy priorities in his interpretation will become clear and understandable for every Russian. The secret of the Minister's charm is simple. Sergei Lavrov combines positive qualities valued by different groups of Russians. He is an intellectual, writes poetry, sings and plays a guitar - this is a tribute to the era of Russian bards, when the air of freedom was breaking through Communist bans. In fact, he does belong to the "bard generation", maybe somewhat differing from them by his patrician appearance.

    The Minister is courteous and witty - that can win him the hearts of women. He goes in for rafting, and generally likes risk, which can attract the attention of young people and the country's male population. In this aspect, actually, he resembles Vladimir Putin, who also serves as a model of a sportsman for the young. By the way, risk and the ability to react to challenges quickly is an important quality for a diplomat as well.

    For the Russian political circles the important thing is that the new Minister is a man true to his word and determined at the same time. "Not to fall down and stubbornly pursue your goal" - these words are taken from the anthem of the Moscow State Institute of Foreign Relations, written by the Minister in 1998. It is also important that the Minister is used to teamwork - diplomacy cannot exist without it. "Collective efforts" is his favorite phrase. It was present in the Minister's answers to nearly every question at the press conference - when he was talking about the fight against terrorism, the reform of the UN or the coordination of Russian Ministries' activities.

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