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    MOSCOW, March 18, 2004. (RIA Novosti) - Sergei Lavrov, Russia's Minister of Foreign Affairs, received Dai Binguo, China's Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and special government envoy, in Moscow today. They discussed the latest developments in the vicinity of the Taiwan Strait, reports the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs press and information department.

    Mr Dai informed his host about the latest events connected with a referendum, due in Taiwan Saturday next, March 20, and put forward his country's stance on the Taiwan issue.

    The referendum may exacerbate Taiwan Strait tensions, Sergei Lavrov warned in reply.

    "In particular, this [apprehension] concerns a referendum question on whether Taiwan ought to build up its anti-missile defence. We have every justification for being alarmed as Taiwan may join planning of an East Asian bloc for a regional theatre missile defence network.

    "Nothing but an effective and cooperated system of multilateral regional partnership free of demarcation lines can guarantee stability and security to all Asian and Pacific countries and regions. That is Russia's firm conviction," the minister said emphatically.

    Mr. Lavrov confirmed Russia's principled stances on the Taiwan issue, as formalised in a Sino-Russian treaty of goodneighbourly relations, friendship and cooperation, signed July 16, 2001. Russia recognises Taiwan China's inalienable part on that treaty.

    The conferees also exchanged opinions on certain topical aspects of bilateral contacts and a number of international issues, in particular, Korean developments and Iraqi settlement.

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