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    LAVROV AND RICE TOUCH UPON MANY TOPICS DURING TALKS IN ANKARA

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    ANKARA, February 6 (RIA Novosti) - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US State Secretary Condoleezza Rice held talks in Ankara on Saturday.

    At a press conference after the talks, Mr. Lavrov told journalists that the topic of democratic reforms in Russia remains one of the key issues of the Russian-US dialogue.

    "This theme has been touched upon again. During the talks, I assured the US State Secretary that President Putin would answer any questions during the upcoming summit in Bratislava on February 24, and, most certainly would raise his own questions. The current state of our relations allows us to act in such a manner," Mr. Lavrov underlined.

    He said both Russia and US realize that all differences in positions must be openly discussed in order to come to mutually acceptable solutions.

    "Despite the differences in our approaches and certain difficulties in our relations we must always consider the main aspect of our relations - the fact that we are partners in the fight against global challenges and threats, such as proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and terrorism," Mr. Lavrov stressed.

    He said the sides also discussed the Yukos affair.

    "We touch upon this subject, as well. Condoleezza Rice reaffirmed that this issue must be dealt with in accordance with Russian legislation," Mr. Lavrov said.

    He also stated that the sides discussed the situation in Ukraine in the context of OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) activities.

    "We reiterated our position on the necessity of the reform of the election monitoring mechanism, which would only benefit from more frequent consultations on the issue," Mr. Lavrov stated.

    The Russian foreign minister also pointed out that Russia and the US reaffirmed the closeness of their positions on the settlement of conflicts in Georgia.

    "The US side confirmed its position on the ongoing conflicts in Georgia. It coincides with our position on this issue. We are certain that these conflicts must be settled only through political measures, without any forcible solutions," Mr. Lavrov emphasized.

    The minister said he informed Ms. Rice about the current Russian-Georgian dialogue on a number of issues and about Russia's efforts as an intermediary in the settlement of conflicts in South Ossetia and Abkhazia (self-proclaimed republics on the territory of Georgia).

    According to Mr. Lavrov, the sides also discussed the overall conflict-settlement situation on the CIS territory. "We expressed common interest in the settlement of these conflicts through political means," the Russian minister said.

    The sides also expressed interest in preventing terrorists from using the territory of CIS countries as their base. "We agreed that it was in our mutual interest to ensure the stability in that region," Mr. Lavrov underlined.

    He also noted that the sides touched upon the issue of Iranian nuclear programs during the talks.

    "We reaffirmed the importance of finding solutions to all issues related to the Iranian problem through political means. The US side conceded it was in Washington's interests, as well," the Russian foreign minister stated.

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