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    YANDARBIEV ASSASSINATION: NO RUSSIAN CONNECTION, SAYS FOREIGN MINISTER

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    MOSCOW, March 18, 2004. (RIA Novosti) - Statements made by Sergei Lavrov, Russia's Minister of Foreign Affairs, concerning Qatar do not offer a slightest chance to assume involvement of two Russian nationals detained there in the assassination of Zelimkhan Yandarbiev, former Chechen president. The point was pressed as Alexander Yakovenko, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman, commented a related contribution to the Qatar-based daily, Asharq.

    Mr Yakovenko made an unabridged quotation of the minister's reply to a CNN reporter at a news conference yesterday. He was asked to comment certain Western-based media outlets' assumptions of the two Russian nationals involved in the Qatar assassination. She also asked whether the anti-terror cause allowed Russia to pursue and kill terrorists abroad, in whatever country of the world.

    "Igor Ivanov, previous Minister of Foreign Affairs, explicitly put forward the Russian stance on the first question, and Russia clings to that stance to this day. We demanded from the Qatar top to authorise the Russian nationals' unbarred return home," said Mr Lavrov.

    "As for your other question, it concerns general concepts. Respective matters are under debate, for instance, in the context of what Israel is doing in occupied Palestinian areas, and of what is being done to fight the Taliban, the Al-Qaida, and officers of the Saddam Hussein regime. The question oughtn't to be put to Russia," stressed the minister.

    "As we see from Sergei Lavrov's replies, the Russian minister answered either question separately, and pointed out just what made them separate. Naturally, all that gave no grounds for the Qatar newspaper to make its conclusions, and for other speculations on the issue," said Alexander Yakovenko.

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