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Today's Headlines for:
Friday, October 06, 2006

President discusses social housing, Activist held over Vitebsk bombing, Vika Moroz, Georgia spy scandal, TV ads, EU bans, Russian missiles

From the Top

Draft presidential decree on state housing stock discussed

From: Belta
Today’s session chaired by the head of state is discussing a draft government-prepared presidential decree “Certain aspects of provision and utilisation of residential premises of the state housing stock”.

The document combines several draft decree, which regulate the distribution of living premises of the state housing stock, including service flats, to judges, prosecution officers, military and other population categories. The discussed comprehensive presidential decree is expected to address all unresolved problems.

Alexander Lukashenko said, while presenting the draft decree, speakers should quote figures and give precise answers to how employees entitled to service flats are categorised, how service flats are provided and how violations in the field can be prevented.

The draft decree still preserves primary right of certain employee categories such as judges and prosecution officers to service flats. Moreover, they retain the privilege to occupy the apartments after they retire. The head of state asked for precise reasons for preserving such a privilege.

"In Belarus the reformation of privileges goes step-by-step, without any shocks. Several years ago we decided that we will gradually abandon the practise of providing massive privileges,” stressed the head of state. “It is abnormal when the majority of the population enjoy privileges. Once we counted around 7 million privilege beneficiaries”. But it does not mean Belarus turns down social security goals, added Alexander Lukashenko.

According to the president, social security should not be limited to just giving out money the entire society owns. He noted, “The state has to create conditions for its citizens, first, to be able to work and earn decent salaries. Second, to be able to spend the money on normal lives for their families: buy houses, enjoy recreation”.

The president was convinced that people should work, earn and have the welfare level, which corresponds to the quality and amount of their work. Otherwise, dependency is induced.

"Along these lines, the state cannot and should not provide service flats to too many people, Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko told today’s session on provision and utilisation of residential premises of the state housing stock.

The head of state believes that “Old approaches when every ministry tried hard to reserve a list of employees entitled to free state apartments are no longer acceptable”.

The president stressed, the construction and maintenance of service housing needs much money and the country does not have money to waste. Alexander Lukashenko instructed all the speakers to present reasoned proposals why these or those employees should get service apartments.

"Much work had been done within a year to improve Belarus housing laws in order to regulate the utilisation of the state housing stock. A year ago we really got down to issues related to the provision of state housing,” noted the head of state. “Following my instructions the State Control Committee examined the status of the utilisation and accounting of residential premises of the state housing stock”.

According to the president, the examination revealed “terrible facts”. There was no complete and reliable accounting of state residential premises. Social and service apartments were often provided in violation of the law. The examination revealed massive abuse of power and even crimes. People with no need for housing got apartments at the expense of those, who were forced to accommodate several families in one small flat, emphasised the head of state.

Alexander Lukashenko noted, a lot had been done to regulate the utilisation of state housing stock. However, the process is still imperfect in aspects related to the utilisation of service living premises.

Belarus police hold activist over blasts-lawyer

From: Reuters
Belarus police arrested an activist on Thursday opposed to President Alexander Lukashenko in connection with explosions in a provincial town, a lawyer said.

Pavel Krosovsky of the "Young Front" group was detained east of the capital Minsk on suspicion of involvement in two blasts which injured more than 40 people last year in Vitebsk, near the Russian border, Pavel Sapelko, a human rights lawyer, said.

"He is being held on suspicion of attempted murder," Sapelko said by telephone.

"This does not mean that he is suspected of carrying out the explosions himself. He is alleged to have been linked to them."

Krosovsky has yet to be charged with anything and can be held for up to 10 days. An attempted murder charge carries a maximum death penalty.

Belarus, unlike other ex-Soviet states, has no moratorium on executions of convicted criminals.

Sapelko said Krosovsky was not in Belarus when the explosions occurred.

Police were unavailable for comment.

The blasts occurred near a bus stop and a cafe. Two suspects were held for a time but released for lack of evidence.

A leader of the Young Front group, Dmitry Dashkevich, was arrested by police last month on suspicion of membership of an unregistered organisation -- punishable by up to three years in prison under tough laws adopted last year ahead of the election.
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From: Moss News, and AGI online, Naveny
A foster parent of Vika Moroz, a 10-year-old orphan girl who refused to return to her orphanage after a summer break she had spent with an Italian couple and was later ordered to go home by an Italian court, apologized to Belarus ambassador to Italy, Alexei Skripko, on Italian TV.

"I apologise to Belarus, we acted wrongly in a moment of desperation", said Maria Chiara Bonarcin Giusto, foster parent of Maria, to Belarus ambassador to Italy, Alexei Skripko, during the TV programme 'Porta a Porta'. "We are ready to cooperate - she said - but I ask you to solve this affair, even for the sake of other children, who have nothing to do with this". The foster parents think that Belarus "has won its diplomatic battle, now we ask you to win the battle for your children, allowing Maria to keep in touch with us".

The International Committee for Adoptions, regarding the news on the missing adoption request of Maria by Mr and Mrs Giusto, informs that the Minsk authorities have frozen all requests for adoption that arrived after 31 Oct 2004. The 150 requests for 169 children that were being examined are still being considered. During the talks for the signing of the bilateral MoU, on 12 Dec 2005, followed by correspondence between the Committee and the Belarus Eductation Ministry, the Minsk authorities constantly reasserted that Italian authorised bodies could lodge new requests only once the ones lodged before Oct 2004 were all examined. If the current situation has changed, we trust in a prompt communication by the Education Ministry, so as to deliver the hundreds of requests that have been frozen for two years.

In late September Italy ordered a 10-year-old orphan, who had been spending her holidays with Alessandro Giusto and his wife, Chiara Bornacin, to return home, to her orphanage near Minsk. The girl claimed she had been abused at home.

A court in Genoa ruled in late September that the child whose case has divided Italy and strained relations between the two countries was to return to Minsk. The Italian couple who hosted the girl (whom they call Maria though her real name is Viktoria) during the summer refused to return her, saying they believed she had been abused at the orphanage.

They hid the girl but police tracked her on September 29 to an Alpine monastery. The girl had been brought there by the two women whom she called “grannies” - the mothers of her foster parents.

Police found her near the northern city of Genoa and she was put on a private aircraft back to Belarus. The couple, who speak of themselves as the girl’s parents and had said they would rather go to prison than allow her to go back to Belarus, rushed to Genoa airport but were too late.

The girl had spent summers with the Italian couple for the past four years. She was one of thousands of Belarusian children who have treatment and holidays abroad under a program for children suffering the long-term effects of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

Belarusian authorities have denied the allegations of abuse in the orphanage, and had formally complained to Italian authorities about what they called a “deliberate abduction.”

However, Belarusian Education Minister Aleksandr Radkov said that the Italian couple that had kept a Belarusian orphan hidden for almost three weeks this past month might apply for the adoption of the girl.

"If Alessandro Giusto and his wife, Maria Grazia Bornacin, decide to apply for the adoption of Vika Moroz, the Belarusian authorities will consider the application in accordance with regularities currently in place," he told reporters in Minsk on Monday.

Russia Urges Belarus to End Visa-Free Travel for Georgians

From: MossNews
Russia on Wednesday moved to expand a transport blockade on Georgia with plans for tighter control on visitors from Belarus, DPA reported.

The Kremlin since midnight Monday blocked direct air, sea, rail and road links between Russia and Georgia, paralysing traffic between the two former Soviet republics. Russian secret police officers in Minsk said they were planning to expand the blockade so as to prevent Georgian citizens from entering Russia visa-free via an indirect route through Belarus.

“Georgian citizens are able to travel to Belarus without a visa...and taking advantage of the uncontrolled border between Russia and Belarus, are able to enter Russia without visas,” the Interfax news agency reported a Russian FSB agent as saying. “We (the Russian FSB secret police) have received instructions to deal with this issue,” the agent said.

A crisis in relations between Moscow and Tbilisi was touched off last month after Georgia arrested a group of Russian officers stationed in the country, and accused them of spying.

Belarus though generally closely allied with Russia thus far has refrained from siding with the Kremlin in the dispute.

Tougher Migrant Laws Proposed

From: Moscow Times
Immigration officials, responding to President Vladimir Putin's call to crack down on illegal migrants, are proposing tougher penalties for businesses that employ these migrants, limiting border crossings, amending the Criminal Code and reducing visa periods.

The proposals were mapped out by Mikhail Tyurkin, deputy head of the Federal Migration Service, at a news conference Thursday.

Tyurkin said the proposed changes were not a direct reaction to the ongoing conflict with Georgia. "But Georgia has to remember that without Russia, it wouldn't exist. You should never bite the hand that feeds you," he said in an interview.

Also on Thursday, Putin reiterated his demand that the government regulate the flow of migrants and the nation's labor market.

The president appeared to target Georgians, saying groups with mafia ties and an "ethnic hue" should be barred from outdoor markets, Interfax reported.

These groups, Putin said, "are the bosses at markets. That rightly evokes resentment among citizens."

Putin's comments came at a Cabinet meeting.

At the meeting, Putin ordered Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov to take steps that more or less mirror those already being proposed by the Federal Migration Service.

Putin's proposals include setting quotas for migrants that would depend, in part, on their country of origin, and halving uninterrupted visits to 90 days from 180 days.

The president set a Nov. 15 deadline for the government to take action.

Curiously, the president's remark about questionable groups with an "ethnic hue" had been replaced by "semi-criminal groups" -- without any specified ethnicity -- in the version of Putin's speech posted Thursday evening on the Kremlin web site.

A presidential administration spokeswoman said Thursday that the government would make sure the new legislation did not hurt white-collar expatriates.

In his comments, the president also made mention of the ethnic violence that shook the Karelian town of Kondopoga last month. Two ethnic Russians in Kondopoga were killed in a fight with natives of the Caucasus; their deaths prompted widespread looting and demonstrations.

Referring to Kondopoga, the president said: "This is a result of the inability of the state, regional and municipal authorities to handle this sphere. There is pervasive corruption in these administrations and in law enforcement institutions."

Putin on Thursday dismissed the republic of Karelia's interior minister, Dmitry Mikhailov, and Alexei Dorofeyev, the head of the republic's Federal Security Service.

Taking his cue from the president, Prosecutor General Yury Chaika later in the day fired Vladimir Panasenko, the republic's chief prosecutor.

It is unknown exactly how many Georgians are living and working in Russia illegally.
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    Georgian Gas Firm Warns of Price Hike

    From: Reuters
    Amid the growing tensions between Russia and Georgia, Gazprom was reported to be seeking a sharp hike in gas prices from Tbilisi, sparking fears that Georgia could face a similar cutoff to the one that Ukraine suffered last winter.

    "At the level of unofficial talks, different prices are being talked about, from $170 to $250 per 1,000 cubic meters of gas," said Geno Malazonia, president of Energy Invest, Georgia's largest gas importer, Reuters reported.

    Malazonia said Gazprom officials had talked about the price hike in meetings 10 days ago -- before relations between Georgia and Russia spiraled to a new low following Georgia's arrest of four Russians it accused of spying.

    Georgia currently pays $110 per 1,000 cubic meters -- far below the $230 to $250 paid throughout Europe, but much higher than the $47 currently paid by Belarus.

    Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov declined to comment on the potential rate hike.

    "We haven't started talks yet on pricing for next year," he said. "I think the talks will start soon," he added, without specifying a date.

    Gazprom provides the bulk of Georgia's gas, supplying about 4.5 million cubic meters per day. Yet the country began diversifying its sources last January, after explosions at a pipeline in North Ossetia disrupted gas shipments, highlighting the country's reliance on Russian gas. The explosions came just weeks after Gazprom cut supplies to Ukraine during a pricing dispute, hitting heating services in the middle of winter.

    Saakashvili has led his country's attempts to withdraw from Russia's sphere of influence, aspiring to membership in NATO and inviting U.S. troops to train Georgian forces. "On purely commercial grounds, countries that want independence from Russia have no right to subsidized prices," said Chris Weafer, chief strategist at Alfa Bank.

    Gazprom has increasingly been seeking market prices in its sales to neighboring countries. The dispute with Georgia "has allowed the issue to be put back on the agenda," Weafer said.

    Georgia imports around 4 million cubic meters of Azeri and Iranian gas per day. Those supplies will jump by the end of the year, when Azerbaijan is due to start supplying Georgia with up to 300 million cubic meters of gas through a BP-led pipeline from Azerbaijan's Shah Deniz field to Turkey, which passes through Georgia.

    Gazprom has been seeking to hike prices around the CIS, provoking sharp rebuke from Ukraine and, most recently, from Belarus. An unidentified Kremlin official told Interfax on Thursday that talks on gas prices for Belarus would continue.

    Belarus Expels Catholic Priests and Nuns

    From: Total Catholic
    Just a week after a Catholic priest was hauled before a court in Belarus, authorities in the communist former Soviet state have refused to renew work visas for a dozen priests and nuns working in the country.

    The 7 priests and 5 nuns, who had been working in different parishes of the Grodno diocese for the better part of a decade, were ordered to leave Belarus by 2007.

    No official reason has been given by Belarusian authorities as to why the 12, all from Poland, had their requests to renew their visas turned down.

    Last week Fr Antoni Kochko escaped punishment from authorities after he was accused of saying Mass without state permission in Minsk.

    Although there is no official state religion in Belarus, a 2003 concordat between the state and the Belarus Orthodox Church recognised the Belarus Church as the only recognised religion.

    And the recent restrictions on Catholics are leading to fears that President Aleksandr Lukashenko could be reneging on an agreement made in 2005 with the former Archbishop of Minsk Cardinal Kazimierz Swiatek to ease restrictions on the nations Catholics.

    Head of national television networks speak against proposed restriction on advertising time

    From: Naveny
    The heads of the three national television networks, Channel 1 (Belarusian Television), ONT and STV, spoke against a proposed restriction on advertising time on television at Tuesday's meeting with members of the House of Representatives.

    Channel One head Aleksandr Zimovsky, ONT chief Grigory Kisel and STV head Yury Koziyatko attended the meeting.

    A new version of the Advertising Law, which will soon be debated by the House, would limit to 12 minutes per hour whereas at present ads total up to 30 minutes an hour in prime time.

    According to Mr. Zimovsky, the proposed measure would considerably undermine the financial position of the networks. He noted that the bill would affect their development strategy. "The channels have the opportunity to earn money, please do not hamper us in doing so," he said, adding that Belarus would soon have parliamentary elections. The more efficient the performance of the channels is, the more efficient their assistance to candidates will be, he noted.

    Mr. Koziyatko estimated Belarus' advertising market at $30 million compared with $3 billion in Russia. The advertising market should be developed, not restricted, he suggested.

    ONT, which does not receive support from the government, will find itself in the most difficult situation, Mr. Kisel said. According to him, in 2005, the network earned $10 million, and the introduction of the restriction may reduce the profit rate to 30 percent, which will bring ONT to a financial collapse.

    Members of the House's Committee on Housing Policy, Construction, Trade and Privatization split over the matter. Some suggested that the legislature should side with the television networks. Others argued that their voters complained about their tiredness of ads. The heads of the networks proposed a compromise solution: to provide legislatively that advertising time should not exceed 20 percent of the airtime. The committee ultimately failed to make a decision and suggested that the proposed restrictions be reconsidered by all concerned parties, including the Presidential Administration.
  • Note: The BHTimes completely agrees with this article in that advertising on BY television is misery. A recent check of popular show "Druzia" (reruns of 'Friends' dubbed into Russian) had 22 minutes of content and 14 minutes of advertising thrown in. This sort of arrangement is very common and is, as the article has stated, extremely normal for ONT.

    EU foreign ministers may discuss travel sanctions against more Belarusian officials on October 16

    From: Belapan
    The European Union (EU)'s foreign ministers may discuss the possibility of extending the 37-name list of Belarusian officials barred from the EU territory at their meeting on October 16, a representative of the EU Council's press office told BelaPAN.

    The spokesman said that the matter was being given careful consideration by the EU Council.

    EUobserver reported last month that the 25-nation bloc was planning to blacklist four more Belarusian officials in response to the jailing of opposition politician Aleksandr Kozulin.

    Former presidential candidate Aleksandr Milinkevich raised the subject while visiting Finland in September. "We found common ground with respect to the imposition of harsher sanctions against Belarusian government officials who ignore electoral regulations and are involved in repression against the Belarusian people," Mr. Milinkevich said after his meeting with Finnish Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen.

    The EU's travel ban list currently includes Aleksandr Lukashenko and 36 other Belarusian officials.

    Lithuanian PM opposes economic sanctions against Belarus

    From: Baltic Times
    Having just demarcated the border with Belarus on Tuesday, Lithuanian Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas said today that he would disapprove of the planned European Union's (EU) economic sanctions against Belarus. The PM expressed that sanctions would worsen the country's economic isolation and affect its people without any consequences to the regime of President Alexander Lukashenko.

    "We are in support of stricter political measures against Belarus but disapprove of economic sanctions that would burden lives of Belorussian people,” Kirkilas told the Baltic News Service adding, “If there is a need to tighten sanctions against Minsk, let us expand the list of Belorussian state officials that are refused entry to the EU from 1,000 to 2,000 people."

    In the prime minister's words, economic sanctions and the proposed higher prices for EU visas would "only contribute to isolation of the country, which is very useful to the regime."

    Kirkilas spoke to the Baltic News Service on Wednesday commenting on proposals discussed by the EU to temporarily remove Belarus from the EU system of general trade exemptions. At a meeting of EU experts last week, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Greece and Cyprus were against the proposal, while Italy, the Czech Republic and Slovakia abstained.

    If the ballot outcome is positive, EU's foreign ministers would have been able to officially announce the temporary removal in mid-October and allow for the European Commission to introduce new imports tariffs of timber, textiles and minerals from Belarus. European Union ambassadors will now have to reopen the issue in Brussels on Oct. 12.

    "Our proposal is to revive and renew the EU Neighborhood Policy and take political sanctions to indicate that it is the Lukashenko dictatorship, not the people of Belarus, that is illegitimate," Kirkilas said.

    However the prime minister did expressed how far his opposition would go saying that if supporters of strict economic sanctions are victorious in the EU talks, Lithuania would support the common EU stance.

    Lithuania, EU members and other democratic countries have been criticizing Belorussian president Lukashenko for gross violations of democratic principles but have been supporting pragmatic economic relations with Belarus.

    Russia ready to cooperate with Belarus in NPP construction

    From: Itar-Tass
    Russia is ready to cooperate with Belarus in a project to build a nuclear power plant in its territory, Director of Russia's Rosatom Federal Agency for Atomic Energy Sergei Kiriyenko told reporters on Wednesday.

    "The Belarussian government has announced the possibility of building a nuclear power plant in its territory, and Atomstroiexport has carried out a presentation and submitted the necessary documents," he said.

    "If Belarus has such interests, we are ready to interact; it's possible," Kiriyenko underlined.

    Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus must form customs union by March

    From: Ria Novosti
    A customs union of Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus must be formed by March 2007, Kazakhstan's president said Tuesday.

    Leaders of the Eurasian Economic Community (Eurasec) signed documents on the establishment of a customs union, which envisions no duties or taxes for imports or exports on the organization's territory, during an informal summit in Sochi, in southern Russia, on August 15-17.

    "We will sign part of the documents this year needed to set up the customs union in order to form a trilateral union by March," Nursultan Nazarbayev told a news conference on the sidelines of the third Russian-Kazakh regional forum visited by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

    Eurasec comprises Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Belarus and Uzbekistan.

    Initially, only three Eurasec members - Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus - will join the customs union, as they have already harmonized most of the necessary documents.

    Kazakhstan presides over the Commonwealth of Independent States - a loose union of former Soviet republics - this year, and the country's leader said Kazakhstan would propose at a CIS summit in Minsk October 17 that the structure and charter of the CIS be modified for heads of state to focus on vital issues, such as a migration policy.

    Putin warns against using language of blackmail with Russia

    From: Ria Novosti
    Russia will not submit to blackmail from anyone, Russia's president said Wednesday in a clear reference to a diplomatic row with Georgia over spying allegations.

    The president's statement comes in the wake of a scandal that began when Georgian police detained four Russian officers and charged them with espionage last week. Although the officers were handed over to the OSCE and then Russia Monday, diplomatic tensions between Moscow and Tbilisi have persisted.

    "I would not recommend that anyone use the language of provocation and blackmail against Russia," Vladimir Putin said at a meeting with senior members of the lower house of parliament, who considered a draft statement on Georgia Wednesday.

    The president also thanked legislators for supporting the executive authorities during the diplomatic conflict with Georgia.

    "I am grateful for the support of the officials who sought to defend the rights, dignity and lives of our citizens abroad," Putin said.

    The State Duma, the lower house of parliament, is dominated by the pro-Kremlin United Russia party, and this has led Western critics of Putin's policies to call it a "pocket parliament."

    He said the current political consensus was definitely favored by a majority of Russians, and would help ensure their rights in the former Soviet Union and in other countries.

    The president said a national consensus on key international issues was a serious basis for Russia's foreign policy.

    The arrest of the Russian officers in Georgia and the rhetoric of Georgian authorities sparked off a crackdown in Russia on the approximately 300,000 Georgians living and working in the country.

    Putin, in particular, highlighted the immigration problem and called for careful review of immigration laws.

    "Our economy has been and will be absolutely open and transparent," he said. "It must encourage the inflow of capital and a qualified, much-needed workforce into our country."

    However, the president said the authorities in Russia must be in charge of immigration flows in a way that will benefit Russian citizens and prevent them from feeling disadvantaged in certain sectors.

    "It is important to look closely at the current laws that allow foreign citizens to work and do business in Russia," he said, adding that they should simultaneously meet international requirements and defend the rights of local populations.

    After Russia suspended transport, postal and financial links with Georgia over the arrest of its servicemen, police in Russia were instructed to look into the legality of Georgian-owned businesses.

    In the past two days, police closed down two major casinos in Moscow owned by the same Georgian businessman, saying he allegedly belonged to the Georgian mafia. According to police, the casinos - Golden Palace and Kristal - violated gambling laws, including health and tax codes.
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    New solutions on Iran needed after U.S. sanctions - Russian FM

    From: Ria Novosti
    The international community will have to work out new solutions for the Iranian nuclear problem following a unilateral decision by the United States to impose sanctions on countries cooperating with the Islamic Republic, Russia's foreign minister said Thursday.

    On October 1 President George W. Bush signed the Iran Freedom Support Act, stipulating sanctions against countries that maintain energy cooperation with Iran and supply weapons to the country.

    Sergei Lavrov, on returning from a visit to Poland, said: "The U.S. unilateral law on sanctions has complicated the collective work of the Iran-6."

    The six powers mediating the Iran nuclear issue, the five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany, have been trying to persuade Iran to accept a package of incentives, and suspend uranium enrichment, which many countries believe is the beginning of an Iranian nuclear weapons program.

    Russia has consistently defended Iran's right to nuclear energy, and is building a nuclear power plant in the country under a $1 billion contract signed in 1995.

    The United States has pressed for sanctions against Iran, but Russia and China, which hold veto-wielding authority at the UN Security Council, have resisted the idea.

    The Russian minister said, "We agreed to do everything together, including analyzing of the situation, and formulating measures to influence [Iran]. But what has happened has happened. Let us see what we can do in this situation."

    Lavrov said earlier on Thursday in Warsaw that the new U.S. law only made it more difficult for the international community to agree a collective approach to Iran's problem.

    Negotiations between Iran-6 have stalled over Iran's failure to meet the UN Security Council's August 31 deadline for suspending its nuclear activities.

    Lavrov, who has defended the Islamic Republic's right to pursue atomic research, said Russia was worried about the lack of a consistent reply from Tehran on the nuclear program issue.

    "We are concerned that Tehran has provided no satisfactory answer on its nuclear program," he said.

    Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Thursday that no sanctions would stop Iran from enriching uranium, a necessary step to creating a nuclear fission bomb.

    In mid-September, negotiations between the European Union foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, and Tehran's chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani brought no progress in the dispute.

    On Friday, the Iran-6 may meet in London to discuss the crisis, but the British Foreign Office has yet to confirm this.

    Lavrov said the upcoming meeting in London would be guided by agreements reached within the group of six mediators. "But we will also look for additional opportunities to continue multilateral diplomatic efforts," Lavrov said.

    The Russian minister, however, warned that additional pressure could be put on Iran.

    "We concede the possibility of additional pressure on Iran, but this pressure must be aimed at beginning negotiations and achieving agreements that can ensure non-proliferation," he said.

    Russia's interests to be considered in U.S. missile shield decision

    From: Ria Novosti
    Russia's interests will be considered in a decision on whether to deploy United States anti-missile defense systems in Poland, Russia's foreign minister said Thursday.

    Poland and the Czech Republic are among the countries being considered for the formation of a European base of a United States' anti-missile shield, plans which have met with opposition in both countries.

    "When Poland's position is decided, this will be done transparently, and taking into account the interests of the Russian side," Sergei Lavrov said on returning from Warsaw.

    The Polish government has confirmed that no decision has yet been reached on whether to deploy the anti-missile defense systems, the minister said after meeting with the president, prime minister, and foreign minister of Poland.

    Russia's army chief, General Yuri Baluyevski, warned in September that deploying a large-scale U.S. anti-missile shield in Europe threatened the start of a new arms race.

    Sports Briefs

    From: Belta
    Maria Yegorova won a silver medal at the world free-style wrestling championship in Chinese Guangzhou.

    Wrestling state trainer of the Belarusian sports and tourism ministry Ivan Titov told BelTA, in the women's 55-kilogramme class she had to face Olympics-2004 champion Japanese Saori Yoshida. The Japanese had never lost before and did not this time. Right after the wrestling started the Japanese confused the Belarusian and continued to be most active during the match so that Maria did not have a chance to show what she could do.

    Meanwhile, Belarusian Sergei Artyukhin won a bronze in men’s classic wrestling while Ruslan Sheikhov won a bronze in free-style wrestling.

  • Belarusian marathoners performed well at international competitions. Representatives of the Belarusian sports and tourism ministry told BelTA, Yelena Vinnitskaya excelled in Moline (the USA) by covering the distance within 2 hours 45 minutes and 27 seconds and landed with a silver medal.

    Belarusian sportsman Dmitriy Sivov came fifth — 2:26:34.

    In Slovakian Kosice marathoner Natalia Kulesh covered the distance within 2:36.47 and won.

    Belarusian sportsman Vladimir Tyamchik came second with his time stopped at 2:14.46.

  • Anastasiya Samusevich won a silver award in the world modern pentathlon finals in Italian Chianciano. The sports and tourism ministry told BelTA, after five events the Belarusian sportswoman had 5460 points and managed to get as far as the second best award. Alessia Pieretti of Italy collected 5472 points and won gold. Paulina Boenisz of Poland came third with 5452 points.

    Anna Arkhipenko and Tatiana Mazurkevich of Belarus made it to the 12th (5296) and 22nd positions (5112).

    Yegor Lappo was the best Belarusian pentathelete and collected 5312 points to come 13th. Belarusians Mikhail Prokopenko and Dmitriy Melyakh ranked 20th (5260 points) and 21st (5240). Libor Capalini of Czechia was the best among men (5556 points).

  • The draw for the 2007 Davis Cup has been made today in Rome.

    Belarus drew Sweden for the Davis Cup 1/8 finals. The game will be played in Minsk. The winner will play against the best team of the Austria-Argentina pair.

    As BelTA was informed in the Belarusian Tennis Association, this will be the first match between the national teams of Belarus and Sweden within the framework of this informal world championship. It is noteworthy that leader of the Belarusian team Max Mirnyi shows good results in the ATP double tournaments and successfully plays with his doubles partner Jonas Bjorkman from Sweden.

    We remind that this year’s David Cup winner will be announced at the first December weekend after the final match between the teams of Russia and Argentina in Moscow.