Lavrov to attend Russia-ASEAN meeting.

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BALI, July 22 (Itar-Tass) —— Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will discuss on Friday economic and energy cooperation at the Russia-ASEAN ministerial meeting in Bali, Indonesia, and will attend annual ASEAN events.

For the first time ever Russia will be present at a ministerial meeting organized within the framework of East Asian summits as a full-fledged member.

“We have traversed a great distance over the years: we have raised our relationship to the highest level,” the Russian foreign ministry said.

“Contacts between Russian agencies…and ASEAN structures have become more intensive. A ‘road map’ for trade, economic and investment cooperation is being drafted. A working program of energy cooperation for 2010-2015 is being implemented,” the ministry said.

The Russian and ASEAN ministers will discuss preparations for the annual high-level ASEAN events that will be held in Bali on November 17-19 this year.

“Russia considers the East Asian Summits to be a vital factor in forming a comprehensive, balanced and open architecture in Asia and the Pacific Rim which is commeasurable to contemporary security challenges,” the ministry said.

“East Asian Summits can objectively play the role of a leading arena for the strategic dialogue for leaders on regional security,” it added.

“Involvement in the integration processes that are unfolding in the region will help maximize the potential of the association by ASEAN member states in their cooperation with China, the United States, India, Japan and the Republic of Korea, as well as further develop Russia’s economy and promote social buildup in Siberia and the Far East,” it concluded.

.Russia-ASEAN ministerial meeting opens on Bali.

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BALI ISLAND (Indonesia), July 22 (Itar-Tass) — Interaction in the sphere of the economy, energy, science and technology, as well as dealing with new threats and challenges – are in the focus of the ASEAN-Russia Ministerial Meeting that opened on Bali Island on Friday. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov heads the Russian delegation.

“This year’s meeting year is marked with the 15th anniversary of the partnership dialogue, established in 1996,” the Russian Foreign Ministry noted. “We have come a long way during this period: the relationship was raised to the highest level.”

“The intensity of contacts between the concerned agencies of Russia and ASEAN structures has grown,” the ministry stressed. A ‘roadmap’ of trade-economic and investment cooperation is being developed, and the working programme of energy cooperation for 2010-2015 is being successfully implemented.”

“Additional opportunities for expanding joint projects have been created by the RF decision to increase from 2011 Russia’s annual contribution to the Dialogue Partnership Financial Fund to 1.5 million US dollars,” the diplomatic mission said.

In addition to the Russian Federation – ASEAN meeting, the Russian side will for the first time be present as a full-fledged member at the ministerial meeting of the East Asian Summits (EAS) mechanism, which Russia (simultaneously with the USA) officially joined in October 2010.

The main issue on the EAS ministerial meeting agenda will be the preparation of the next summit to be held within the framework of ASEAN annual summit events on Bali on November 17-19. It is also planned to agree on the draft final document – the Declaration on Principles of Relations between the EAS countries.

“Russia assesses EAS as an important factor in the formation of a comprehensive, balanced and open architecture in the Asia Pacific region, commensurate with modern security challenges,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said. “EAS can objectively qualify for the role of the leading platform for strategic dialogue between the leaders on the problems of regional security.”

At the upcoming meeting the Russian side intends to confirm readiness to take an active part in the implementation of joint programmes within the framework of the EAS relevant sectoral mechanisms.

“The involvement in the integration processes unfolding in the region will help attract this association’s potential to a more efficient use of the opportunities of cooperation with China, the United States, India, Japan, Korea, ASEAN member states in the interest of Russia’s economic development, socio-economic development of Siberia and the Far East,” the Russian Foreign Ministry noted.

AESAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) is a geopolitical and economic organisation of ten countries located in Southeast Asia, which was formed on 8 August 1967 by Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. Since then, membership has expanded to include Brunei, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. Its aims include the acceleration of economic growth, social progress, cultural development among its members, the protection of the peace and stability of the region, and to provide opportunities for member countries to discuss differences peacefully.

ASEAN covers an area of 4.46 million square km, 3 percent of the total land area of Earth, with a population of approximately 600 million people, 8.8 percent of the world population. In 2010, its combined nominal GDP had grown to US$1.8 trillion. If ASEAN was a single entity, it would rank as the ninth largest economy in the world.

According to the organisation’s website, ASEAN-Russia Dialogue Partnership could be traced back to July 1991 when the then Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation attended the Opening Session of the 24th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting (AMM) in Kuala Lumpur as a guest of the Malaysian Government. Russia was subsequently elevated to a full Dialogue Partner of ASEAN at the 29th AMM in July 1996 in Jakarta.

ASEAN and Russia maintain good political and security relations. A milestone in ASEAN-Russia dialogue relations was when Russia acceded to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC) on 29 November 2004. Russia’s accession to the TAC reflects her strong commitment to regional peace, stability and a significant contribution to the TAC as an important code of conduct governing inter-states relations.

Russia participates in a series of consultative meetings with ASEAN under the ASEAN-Russia dialogue relations to discuss and exchange views on political and security issues of mutual interest and concern. These include ministerial meetings, senior officials meetings and meetings at experts level, as well as through dialogue and cooperation frameworks initiated by ASEAN, such as the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), the Post Ministerial Conferences (PMCs) 10+1, and the East Asia Summit, staring in 2011.

At the first ASEAN-Russia Summit in December 2005 in Kuala Lumpur, ASEAN and Russia signed the Joint Declaration of the Heads of State/Government of the Member Countries of ASEAN and the Russian Federation on Progressive and Comprehensive Partnership. The Joint Declaration promotes and strengthens ASEAN-Russia Dialogue Partnership in a wide range of areas including political and security, economic and development cooperation. ASEAN and Russia also adopted the Comprehensive Programme of Action 2005-2015 to realise the goals and objectives set out in the Joint Declaration.

ASEAN-Russia cooperation is undertaken under the Framework of the ASEAN-Russia Comprehensive Plan of Action (CPA) to Promote Cooperation between ASEAN and Russia 2005-2015. The CPA is aimed at promoting and enhancing ASEAN-Russia Dialogue Relations through assisting ASEAN in its efforts in regional economic integration and community building. A Roadmap to Implement the CPA is adopted to better the implementation of the CPA.

.RF Dpty FM to discuss cooperation with Kyrgyz leadership.

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BISHKEK, July 22 (Itar-Tass) — State Secretary and Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia Grigory Karasin will arrive in the capital of Kyrgyzstan on Friday for talks with the country’s leadership on the development of bilateral cooperation, Kyrgyz Deputy Foreign Minister Asein Isayev told Itar-Tass in an interview.

“Kyrgyzstan and Russia have always maintained relations at the interstate level,” he said, “including in the economic and political spheres.” According to him, the current visit of Karasin is linked with the discussion of “future cooperation.”

In Bishkek, Karasin “will meet and discuss these issues with the republic’s President Roza Otunbayeva, as well as the Parliament speaker Akhmatbek Keldibekov,” Isayev said. He also recalled that last year Karasin visited Kyrgyzstan as a special envoy of the Russian Federation. “But now the situation in our country has normalised, and that status is no longer required,” he stressed.

In recent years, trade turnover between Kyrgyzstan and Russia almost doubled and in 2010 reached 1.4 billion US dollars. Over the first three months of the current year, the mutual export-import operations increased again by more than 10 percent, compared with last year’s figures and reached almost 290 million dollars. In the difficult for the Kyrgyz economy 2010, the volume of Russian investments in the republic increased 2.1 times and amounted to 95.9 million dollars.

In early 1995, Askar Akayev, the then President of Kyrgyzstan, attempted to sell Russian companies controlling shares in the republic’s twenty-nine largest industrial plants, an offer that Russia refused.

Akayev has been equally enthusiastic about more direct forms of reintegration, such as the Euro-Asian Union that the President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, proposed in June 1994. Because Kyrgyzstan presumably would receive much more from such a union than it would contribute, Akayev’s enthusiasm has met with little response from Russia and the other, larger states that would be involved in such an arrangement. Akayev’s invitation for Russian border guards to take charge of Kyrgyzstan’s Chinese border, a major revision of his policy of neutrality, was another move toward reintegration.

The Kyrgyzstan government also has felt compelled to request Russia’s economic protection. The harsh reality of Kyrgyzstan’s economic situation means that the nation is an inevitable international client state, at least for the foreseeable future. Despite concerted efforts to seek international “sponsors,” Akayev has not received much more than a great deal of international good will. Even if the president had not lived seventeen years in Russia himself and even if his advisers, family, and friends were not all Soviet-era intellectuals with a high degree of familiarity with Russia, economic necessity probably would push Kyrgyzstan further toward Russia.

On his February 1994 visit to Moscow, Akayev signed several economic agreements. Having promised the republic a 75 billion rouble line of credit (presumably for use in 1994) and some US$65 million in trade agreements, Russia also promised to extend to Kyrgyzstan most favoured nation status for the purchase of oil and other fuels. For its part, Kyrgyzstan agreed to the creation of a Kyrgyz-Russian investment company, which would purchase idle defence-related factories in the republic to provide employment for the increasingly dissatisfied Russian population of Kyrgyzstan.

For its part, Russia sees aid to Kyrgyzstan as a successful precedent in its new policy of gaining influence in its “near abroad,” the states that once were Soviet republics. Russia does not want a massive in-migration of Russians from the new republics; some 2 million ethnic Russians moved back to Russia between 1992 and 1995.

In February 2009 the Russian government pledged to write off Kyrgyzstan’s $180 million debt as well as promising to lend a further $2 billion, give $150 million in direct aid and subsidise the building of the Kambarata-1 hydropower plant at the Kambaratinsk Dam. Russia has an embassy in Bishkek and a consulate in Osh, and Kyrgyzstan has an embassy in Moscow, a consulate in Yekaterinburg, and a vice-consulate in Novosibirsk.

Since 2003, Russian Air Force units have been stationed at Kant Air Base east of Bishkek.

.Lavrov meets with China’s, Australia’s counterparts at ASEAN forum.

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BALI ISLAND, July 22 (Itar-Tass) —— Development of bilateral cooperation was discussed at the bilateral meeting at Bali of foreign ministers of Russia and China Sergei Lavrov and Yang Jiechi.

The ministers exchanged views on most important international topics and on the work of regional forums, a source in Russia’s foreign ministry said.

During the meeting with his Australian counterpart Kevin Rudd, Lavrov also discussed cooperation between the two countries in the international arena, including in the Asian-Pacific Region.

“During the talks, the foreign ministers discussed the present state and the prospects of development of the Russian-Australian relations and mutual cooperation of the two countries in the international arena, including in the Asian-Pacific Region,” the diplomat said. “They expressed mutual interest in further expanding cooperation in political, trade, economic and other spheres.”

The ministers signed a plan of consultations of foreign ministries for 2011.

On the sidelines of the RF-ASEAN ministerial meeting, which was organised on Friday in the Nusa Dua resort of Indonesia’s Bali Island, Lavrov had a meeting with the foreign minister of Vietnam.

.RF, Vietnam foreign ministers discuss strategic partnership.

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BALI ISLAND, July 22 (Itar-Tass) —— Foreign ministers of Russia and Vietnam Sergei Lavrov and Pham Gia Khiem discussed strengthening of strategic partnership and implementation of major economic projects, a representative of Russia’s Foreign Ministry said following the bilateral meetings of Russia’s foreign minister on the sidelines of the Russia-ASEAN ministerial meeting on Friday in Indonesia’ s Bali Island in the Indian Ocean.

“Heads of foreign ministries discussed some current topics of the bilateral agenda with a focus on further strengthening of strategic partnership between Russia and Vietnam, including implementation of major projects of the Russian-Vietnamese economic cooperation,” the diplomat said. “They also discussed issues of deepening the Russian-Vietnamese coordination in the international arena, including that in the framework of the Asia-Pacific Region’ s multilateral structures.”

Lavrov also had meetings with foreign ministers of other countries, including China, the DPRK and Australia, who participate in the annual dialogues with their counterparts of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations /ASEAN/.

.Russia wants to be real partner in missile-defence system – Rogozin.

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WASHINGTON, July 22 (Itar-Tass) —— Russia wants to be a real partner in the European missile-defence system rather than a “passive observer” watching American operations, like “a tourist visiting a planetarium,” the Washington Post cited Dmitry Rogozin, Russia’s special envoy on missile defence. Rogozin is currently in the United States for missile defence talks with representatives from the Obama administration.

The missile-defence system should be proportional to the threat, which the U.S. says is chiefly from Iran, Rogozin said. If so, in his words, then why would the U.S. need to deploy advanced anti-missile systems late in this decade, at the end the four-phase project, that seem more suited to stopping Russian than Iranian attacks.

According to Rogozin, the problem is that the two sides cannot cooperate unless they trust each other, and that trust cannot come without cooperation. Russia wanted to “break the vicious circle” and get “inside the system,” the newspaper quoted him as saying.

Russia would like a formal, legally binding assurance that the missile defence system couldn’t be used against its forces, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, who is also taking part in the talks, told the Washington Post. But, in his words, the U.S. administration was unlikely to provide such a treaty-like document for political reasons.

.RF, USA to participate in November E Asian summits on Bali – Lavrov.

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BALI ISLAND, July 22 (Itar-Tass) —— Leaders of Russia and the USA will participate in the summit meeting mechanism of the East Asian summits, due in November on Bali, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday.

“The ministerial meeting has discussed preparations for the upcoming EAC /East Asian Community/ summit,” he said. “Russia and the USA joined this mechanism last year, our leaders will participate in the EAC summit in November of the current year on Bali.”

After Russia and the USA’s joining /in 2011/, all EAC participants expressed interest in discussing political and security issues, Lavrov said. He expressed satisfaction with Russia’s initial experience in the EAC.

“This is a very promising format, which has united major players of the Asia-Pacific Region, and it may become an important mechanism to work out agreements,” he said.

“One of priority aspects of today’s meeting were problems of non-proliferation /of nuclear missiles/,” he continued. “We have agreed to improve cooperation in security at seas in connection with the problem of piracy.”

Lavrov added that the Russian delegation highlighted to the participants in the meeting the idea of indivisibility of security.

Russia and the USA today for the first time participated together at a ministerial meeting of the EAC as full-format members. The decision to invite Russia and United States join the mechanism of East Asian forum was adopted by the ASEAN 16th summit in Hanoi in spring 2010. Later on, at the EAC 5th summit, also in Hanoi in late October of 2010, Moscow and Washington received official invitations to become members of the East Asian Community.

The EAC’s first summit was organised in December of 2005 in Malaysia. It was founded by 16 countries – ten ASEAN countries and six other countries of the Asia-Pacific Region – Australia, India, China, New Zealand, South Korea, Japan. The major objectives of the new regional forum were announced to be promotion of peace, stability and economic well-being of East Asia. The EAC member-countries work actively to guarantee financial stability in the region, support energy security and promote economic integration.

Joining of Russia and the USA to the EAC, as experts say, will add more options for the structure to solve regional and global problems and will provide favourable conditions for expanding multilateral cooperation for the benefit of the world and development in the region and far beyond its territory.

.Kyrgyz speaker considers Russia as CIS locomotive.

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BISHKEK, July 22 (Itar-Tass) —— Russia is a locomotive of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), Kyrgyzstan’ s Parliament Speaker Akhmatbek Keldibekov said during Friday’s meeting with Russia’s State Secretary and Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin and Chairman of the Federation Council Committee on CIS Affairs Andrei Molchanov.

“Russia is always ready to lend its shoulder [to CIS member states] in the time of need, and we feel this support permanently,” Keldibekov said.

In his words, the republic’s lawmakers keep close contacts with their Russian counterparts. “We interact closely and exchange experience with both the State Duma [lower house of Russia’s parliament] and the Federation Council [upper house],” the speaker said.

The meeting between Keldibekov and the Russian officials lasted longer than it was initially planned, the press service of the Kyrgyzstani parliament told Itar-Tass, adding, “The two sides managed to demonstrate that they have close or identical stances on all issues of the agenda.”

According to the press service, Keldibekov’s meeting with Karasin and Molchanov was held in a narrow format.

“The two sides paid special attention to the domestic policy and socio-economic situation on the eve of the presidential elections in Kyrgyzstan due on October 30,” the press service said.

Earlier in the day, in Bishkek, Karasin held talks with Kyrgyzstani Prime Minister Almazbek Atambayev “to discuss the most topical aspects of the current status and prospects for the development of bilateral relations,” the press service said.

“”Kyrgyzstan and Russia permanently maintain relations at the intergovernmental level, including those in the economic and political spheres,” Kyrgyzstani State Secretary and Deputy Foreign Minister Aseim Isayev told Itar-Tass on Thursday.

In his opinion, Karasin’s current visit to the republic is connected with further development of bilateral relations.

.Latvia holds national referendum on parliament dissolution.

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RIGA, July 23 (Itar-Tass) — Latvia holds a referendum on the dissolution of the national parliament initiated by its former president Valdis Zatlers. At 07:00 a.m. local time (08:00 a.m. Moscow time) on Saturday, 950 polling stations opened throughout the country. A total of 78 stations more have been organized abroad. The referendum will be over at 23:00 Moscow time.

Under the national laws, if the majority of voters support Zatlers’ initiative, early parliamentary elections are to be held within two months after the dissolution of the current parliament. Such elections are likely to be held in September, the country’s Central Elections Commission said earlier.

Preliminary voting results will be available at 23:30 and by Sunday morning it is expected to process all ballot papers.

As many as 65 observers from Latvia and 16 international observers have been accredited to monitor the voting procedures.

Official results will be announced on July 26.

Latvia’s population is 2.3 million people, of whom only 1.6 million are eligible voters. About 345,000 Russian speakers who have no Latvian passports will not take part in the voting. Since Latvia’s break-up from the former Soviet Union in 1991, Russian speakers have been stripped off most of political rights, including the right to vote in municipal and parliamentary elections, in elections to the European parliament, and to take part in national referendums.

On May 28, the former president initiated this referendum having accused lawmakers of “serving the interests of oligarchs,” and of the “selling out official posts.”

Zatlers was elected President in 2007, and his term in office expired on July 7, 2011. After former banker Andris Berzins won the presidential elections on June 2, he said he would not cancel the initiative of his predecessor.

.Lithuania actions on Golovatov case contradict int’l diplomatic practices -RF ForMin.

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MOSCOW, July 23 (Itar-Tass) — Moscow is astonished to learn that Lithuania has made public details of a conversation between Russian ambassador to Vilnius and Lithuania’s vice minister of foreign affairs Evaldas Ignatavicius related to the situation around the release in Vienna of former KGB officer Mikhail Golovatov, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said on Friday.

“First of all, I would like to note that in line with the current diplomatic practices details of such meetings are not to be disclosed, all the more distorted,” Lukashevich said in comment of pronouncements of Lithuanian Foreign Minister Audronius Azubalis. “Motives underlying violations of such practices are quite clear.”

“As concerns comments of the words and actions of heads of Russian diplomatic missions, such things are solely within the competences of Russian leaders and the ministry of foreign affairs,” the Russian diplomat stressed. “Our ambassador to Vienna has recounted the situation quite adequately.”

On Tuesday, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Audronius Azubalis was reported as saying that “Russian diplomats are seeking to set a negative background” around Golovatov’s arrest and release in Austria.

“As a law-ruled independent state Austria take its own decisions, and European Commissioner for Justice Viviane Reding reiterated that Austria has acted legally correct in this case,” the Russian embassy said in a statement. Unlike the Lithianian side, “Russia put no political pressure on official Vienna.”

Mikhail Golovatov, the former commander of the Alpha special military squad, had been wanted by Lithuania for his involvement in an attack on the Vilnius TV centre in January 1991. He was detained in Vienna but later was let to return to the homeland. Following these developments, Lithuania recalled its ambassador in Vienna for consultations and handed over a note of protest.

Lithuania’s law enforces say that Golovatov led an operation to crush pro-opposition journalists January 13, 1991 in a Vilnius TV tower, during which 14 people died. Lithuania issued an EU detention order, but Austria, where the man arrived, refused to arrest him over questions to the Lithuanian arrest warrant. To avoid further problems, Golovatov opted to return home.

Russian ambassador to Austria Sergei Nechayev said then that the Austrian authorities “have demonstrated high professionalism and lack of bias and have not let their country be involved in filthy political intrigues of dishonest politician from a third country seeking to earn political capital though settling old scores with their own history.”

When asked whether Russia has put pressure on Vienna, Nechanyev said, “Russia never uses such methods in principle, the more so if it concerns a friendly country.”

.Abkhazia wants better relations with Georgia, Georgia doesn’t – Abkazian PM.

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MOSCOW, July 23 (Itar-Tass) — Abkhazia wants to normalize relations with Georgia but Tbilisi’s current authorities have blocked all paths to a dialogue, Abkhazia’ s Prime Minister Sergei Shamba said on Saturday.

“We have hope that relations with Georgia will improve when the latter is ready for a dialogue,” he said in an interview with the Ekho Moskvy (Moscow Echo) radio station. “Georgia’s current authorise however have shut a door to the dialogue close when they passed a law on occupied territories. We do not consider ourselves as an occupied territory. We contracted Russian troops under a bilateral agreement. There is no question of the withdrawal of Russian troops as a condition for dialogue with Georgia. We shall not compromise.”

He also said he hoped “Georgia’s policy will be more realistic and a process towards recognition of Abkhazia’s independence will emerge.”

According to Shamba, about 50,000 refugees have already returned to their homes in Abkhazia’s southern Gali district. “About 20,000 of them have already been granted Abkhazian passports. They are gradually adjusting in our society. We are taking efforts to involve them into the country’s economic life,” he said and added he was afraid that new conflicts might flare up if Georgian refugees return to localities that used to have mixed population.

“Our basic task is to use the resource we have under the agreement with Russia and to build a dynamic economy, democratic society, and create such conditions under which we will not be ignored. Already now, according to external estimates, Abkhazia gives rise to no critical remarks. It is absolutely obvious that the democratic process is developing in our country,” he stressed.

Shamba, who is running to Abkhazian president, said that if he is elected to the post he would change “the ruling team” through appointing young, enthusiastic people. “A young state, to my mind, is to be built by the young and enthusiastic people,” he noted.

On August 26, Abkhazia will hold early presidential elections following the death of its former president Sergei Bagapsh. Three men, acting President Alexander Ankvab, opposition leader Raul Khadzhimba and Prime Minister Sergei Shamba, have registered as candidates.

.Latvia’s referendum on parliament dissolution finishes.

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RIGA, July 24 (Itar-Tass) —— Latvia finished on Saturday night a referendum on the dissolution of the national parliament initiated by its former president Valdis Zatlers.

The country’s Central Elections Commission said that as of 20:00 local time /21:00 Moscow time/ 41.33 percent of voters had participated in the referendum – 616,739 people.

The voting went smoothly, without any incidents, the commission said. There were lines of those who came to vote at some of the voting stations. No major violations were registered on the day.

Latvia organised 950 election stations in the country and 78 abroad. The question of the referendum was “Are you for dissolution of the tenth seim /parliament/?” Voters were to tick either a Yes or No answer.

Under the national laws, if the majority of voters support Zatlers’ initiative, early parliamentary elections are to be held within two months after the dissolution of the current parliament. Such elections are likely to be held in September, the country’s Central Elections Commission said earlier.

By Sunday morning all ballot papers are expected to be processed.

As many as 65 observers from Latvia and 16 international observers have been accredited to monitor the voting procedures.

Official results will be announced on July 26.

Latvia’s population is 2.3 million people, of whom only 1.6 million are eligible voters. About 345,000 Russian speakers who have no Latvian passports will not take part in the voting. Since Latvia’s break-up from the former Soviet Union in 1991, Russian speakers have been stripped off most of political rights, including the right to vote in municipal and parliamentary elections, in elections to the European parliament, and to take part in national referendums.

On May 28, the former president initiated this referendum having accused lawmakers of “serving the interests of oligarchs,” and of the “selling out official posts.”

Zatlers was elected President in 2007, and his term in office expired on July 7, 2011. After former banker Andris Berzins won the presidential elections on June 2, he said he would not cancel the initiative of his predecessor.

.Latvia’s majority is for dissolution of parliament – early results.

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RIGA, July 24 (Itar-Tass) —— Latvia’s citizens have supported dissolution of the parliament, which was the subject of the referendum on Saturday.

According to the preliminary information the Central Elections Commission received from 470 of 1,028 election stations, the majority – 94.7 percent – are for dissolution of the seim /parliament/, and only 5.06 were against it. The final results are expected later in the morning on Sunday, but official results will be announced on July 26, Latvia’s head of the Central Elections Commission Arnis Tsimdars said on Sunday.

Latvia finished on Saturday night a referendum on the dissolution of the national parliament initiated by its former president Valdis Zatlers.

The voting went smoothly, without any incidents, the commission said. There were lines of those who came to vote at some of the voting stations. No major violations were registered on the day.

Latvia organised 950 election stations in the country and 78 abroad. The question of the referendum was “Are you for dissolution of the tenth seim /parliament/?” Voters were to tick either a Yes or No answer.

Under the national laws, if the majority of voters support Zatlers’ initiative, early parliamentary elections are to be held within two months after the dissolution of the current parliament. Such elections are likely to be held in September, the country’s Central Elections Commission said earlier.

On May 28, the former president initiated this referendum having accused lawmakers of “serving the interests of oligarchs,” and of the “selling out official posts.”

Latvia’s population is 2.3 million people, of whom only 1.6 million are eligible voters. About 345,000 Russian speakers who have no Latvian passports will not take part in the voting. Since Latvia’s break-up from the former Soviet Union in 1991, Russian speakers have been stripped off most of political rights, including the right to vote in municipal and parliamentary elections, in elections to the European parliament, and to take part in national referendums.

.Polish president begins Trans-Caucasian tour.

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WARSAW, July 25 (Itar-Tass) —— Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski has begun a six-day tour of Tans-Caucasian states of Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Armenia to discuss with their leaders bilateral cooperation and relations of these countries with the European Union, the press service of the Polish president reported.

In line with the program, Komorowski’s first destination is Azerbaijan, where he arrived early on Sunday. On Monday, he will meet with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. A number of agreements and memorandums will be signed in the presence of the two leaders. Local experts do not rule out that among subjects for discussion there will issues of energy cooperation. On Tuesday, the two president will take part in a Polish-Azerbaijani business forum.

Later on Tuesday, Komorowski will arrive in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi to meet with President Mikhail Saakashvili, and top-ranking government officials and parliament members. The sides are expected to sign a number of agreements, the details of which have not been made public. On Wednesday, the Polish president will lay flowers at the Lech and Maria Kaczynski boulevard, who died in an air crash near Russia’s Smolensk on April 10, 2010, and to a number of Georgian memorials.

The visit last destination will be Armenia. On Thursday, Komorowski will hold talks with his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sargsyan, Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisyan, and speaker of the national parliament Ovik Abramyan.

The three Trans-Caucasian states are members of the European Union’s Eastern Partnership program geared to strengthen cooperation between the European Union and six former Soviet republics. Poland has declared this program as one top priorities of its chair in the European Union.

On his Caucasian tour, Komorowski is accompanied by the ministers of foreign affairs, of economics, of culture, and a delegation of businessmen.

.Polish president to discuss closer cooperation with Azerbaijan.

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BAKU, July 25 (Itar-Tass) —— Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski arrived in the Azarbaijani capital Baku late on Sunday on a two-day official visit within his tour of South Caucasian states. His talks with the Azerbaijani leaders will focus on closer bilateral relations and European integration.

According to diplomatic sources, on Monday the Polish president will meet with his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev, first tete-a-tete, and then in an extended format involving delegations of the two countries. The sides are expected to discuss the whole range of bilateral ties, with a special emphasis on economic cooperation. It is expected that energy cooperation will be in the focus of attention. The talks may traditionally center round issues of pumping Azerbaijani oil via the Odessa-Brody-Plock-Gdansk pipeline. Azerbaijan has expressed its political support to the project, in which both Poland and the entire European Union are interested. Some sources say Baku has offered Ukraine to pump up to eight million tons of oil a year via the Odessa-Brody pipeline. The Baku talks may discuss a longer pipeline route up to Poland’s Plock and Gdansk. Several years ago, Poland and Ukraine established a joint venture, Sarmartia, to build the Brody-Plock section of the pipeline, with a length of 490 kilometers.

Apart from it, the sides will discuss possibilities for mutual investments, joint projects in such areas as science-intensive industries. These issues will also be raised at an Azerbaijani-Polish business forum the two leaders plan to attend.

Among issues of international politics, the talks will focus on closer cooperation between the two countries within international organizations, more efforts geared towards Azerbaijan’s integration into the Euro-Atlantic structures. According to experts, the sides will focus on the preparations for an Eastern Partnership summit that is to be held in Warsaw in the autumn. Along with other Trans-Caucasian republics, Azerbaijan is a member of this program designed to ensure integration of these countries into the European Union.

The talks are expected to yield a number of bilateral documents.

During his stay in Azerbaijan, the Polish president will meet with speaker of Azerbaijan’s parliament Oktai Asadov, will take part in the Azerbaijani-Polish business forum, and make a sightseeing tour of Baku’s historical monuments.

.Vice speaker with Just Russia to hold consultations on his alleged siding with rival.

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MOSCOW, July 25 (Itar-Tass) —— Vice speaker of the Russian State Duma lower parliament house with the Just Russia party Alexander Babakov on Monday begins consultations with his fellow party members on the situation within the party, Nikolai Levichev, the leader of the party, told Itar-Tass.

The consultations were prompted by media reports alleging that Babakov is leaving Just Russia to join the Putin-engineered Popular Front in order to take part in the primaries in the Perm territory. Media cited Babakov’s alleged open letter explaining his motives.

“So far, Babakov has made no public statement, and has denied writing the open letter,” Levichev said. But, in his words, “Where’s the smoke, there’s fire,” and the consultations is geared to find out whether it was a “false start or a provocation.”

“All will depend on Babakov’s personal position,” Levichev said and added that he had failed to meet with Babakov, since the latter was outside Moscow.

Earlier, Levichev did not rule out information and psychological pressure as put on Babakov to force him to the Popular Front. At the same time, Levichev said the situation might develop either way and warned that if Babkov opted for the Popular Front he would have to leave Just Russia and vacate his post of Duma vice speaker. “Whether he does it himself or we will have to help him in it… prospects are like this. I think neither he nor me have any illusions,” he noted. “But if Babakov keeps firm and despite all temptations says he believes in Just Russia’s political future and is ready to forge it with us, in this case, I think, his authority inside the party will jump high and he will might hope for a top position in the party list for the Duma elections.”

Babakov is unavailable for comment, and his aide Lydia Mikhailova said Babakov’s news conference scheduled for July 25 has been postponed for a later date.

.Kazakh aide names possible successor to Nazarbayev.

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MOSCOW, July 25 (Itar-Tass) —— A senior aide to Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev named a potential successor to the long-standing national leader. He is Nazarbayev’s son-in-law Timur Kulibayev, according to presidential political aide Yermukhamet Yertysbayev who is considered to be the ‘gray cardinal” of Kazakh politics.

“In case of an emergency situation caused by a sudden departure of the head of state it is Kulibayev who can continue the strategic course of the president,” Yertysbayev said in an interview with the Kommersant daily published on Monday.

Kulibayev, 44, is married to Nazarbayev’s middle daughter Dinara and currently heads the Samruk Kazyna national welfare fund that generates close to 53% of the Kazakh GDP.

German media reported last week that Nazarbayev underwent a surgery in Germany, but Yertysbayev only said “the president passed a regular medical check.”

“I have recently talked to the head of state. He is the president up to December 2016, he is full of energy and has major plans in the sphere of industrial and innovative development of the country,” the aide said.

However speaking about Kulibayev he described him as “experienced in state-political management.”

Yertysbayev rejected claims of former Energy Minister Mukhtar Ablyazov, who is wanted both in Kazakhstan and Russia and is living in London, that Prime Minister Karim Masimov is the most likely successor to Nazarbayev.

“I know it exactly that he is not even thinking about playing the number 1 role in the country,” the aide said adding Ablyazov is trying to sow discord between friends Masimov and Kulibayev.

“The factor of personal friendship, of the unified presidential team and the absence of major contradictions among the elite irritate Ablyazov… who is dreaming of a palace coup,” Yertysbayev said.

The aide also said it would be desirable for the national parliament to dissolve itself and hold an early election. He suggested the parliament can pass such a decision on September 1 and schedule the election for November.

“I insistently propose to do that. If lawmakers care about the country, the people, modernization, the president, stability, they will pass such a decision. However if the wish to keep their seats up to August 2012 dominates, I do not rule out that in 2012 the developments can go differently and we shall have very much strain,” Yertysbayev said, but did not elaborate.

.Lavrov invites Iranian foreign minister to visit Russia.

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TEHRAN, July 25 (Itar-Tass) — Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has invited his Iranian counterpart Ali Akbar Salehi to visit Russia, Iranian Ambassador in Moscow Reza Sajjadi told ISNA on Monday.

Sajjadi said this trip might be held within July 23 and August 22 if the Iranian Foreign Ministry confirmed its intention.

According to Sajjadi, the upcoming visit has big significance due to the fact that the Iranian foreign minister has not visited Moscow for the past three years. “The sides will exchange views on bilateral cooperation, regional and international issues. We hope to give explanations on the Russian foreign minister’s step-by-step scheme on Iran’s nuclear programme. Till now we haven’t received any details in this aspect,” the diplomat stressed.

During his recent visit to Washington, Lavrov said Russia opposed the isolation of Iran and new sanctions against that country. “We are against the isolation of Iran. The sides need a dialog rather than new sanctions,” he said.

Earlier, Lavrov said Russia does not see any possibilities to impose additional international sanctions on Iran.

In an interview with Bloomberg Agency, Lavrov said world powers needed to offer to ease sanctions against Iran to get the country to cooperate in resolving the dispute over its nuclear programme.

Talks between Iran and the five permanent U.N. Security Council members plus Germany have stalled since January and Russia believes that incentives are needed to kick-start the process, Lavrov said.

“We have to show to Iran that if it cooperates, if it answers satisfactorily the IAEA demands, then it should see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Lavrov said, referring to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

In mid-2010 Iran came under a fourth set of UN sanctions, which Russia supported and were followed by tougher unilateral measures by the U.S. and the European Union. Russia won’t support new sanctions against Iran, Lavrov said.

“It’s a process which can only be successful if we count not on new sanctions and threats, but on negotiations,” Lavrov said.

The IAEA has been probing Iran’s nuclear work since 2003, when it was revealed that the government had hidden atomic research for two decades. The U.S. has accused Iran of seeking to build a nuclear weapon, while Iran says its program is for energy production. Russia built Iran’s first nuclear power plant, in Bushehr, and plans to start full operations at the facility “very soon,” Rosatom State Corporation said on May 26.

In July 2010 Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Iran was getting closer to achieving the capability to make nuclear weapons. Iran, the world’s fourth-largest oil producer, is rejecting U.N. demands to suspend enrichment of uranium, which can be used both for generating electricity and for making a nuclear warhead. Negotiations broke down in January after talks in Istanbul between Iran and the so-called Sextet, composed of Russia, China, France, Germany, Britain and the United States.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad President Medvedev to resume talks on Tehran’s nuclear problem.

According to the Russian foreign minister, “the Iranian president took this positively. He confirmed that the Sextet mediators worked constructively to solve the problem. Ahmadinejad said he is ready to cooperate.”

Commenting on the tripartite meeting between the Russian, Kazakhstani and Iranian presidents, Lavrov said Tehran is ready to cooperate with the Sextet, including on Iran’s nuclear programme.

“However, Iran would like to discuss measures to ease sanctions,” the Russian minister said.

According to Lavrov, the Iranian president recognised that the Sextet “is an important instrument with which Iran is ready to cooperate. Moreover, it is ready to cooperate on its nuclear programme. But the Iranian president would like to discuss other issues, including easing sanctions and regional processes in which Iran seeks to take part equally with other states”.

“Such approach reflects the position that the Sextet forwards,” Lavrov said. Russia, he added, “expressed the hope that now there will be no obstacles to resume the dialogue with the Sextet”.

The minister said during the talks, “We heard the Iranian president to assure us that additional measures would be taken to make Iran’s nuclear programme more transparent within the contacts between Tehran and the IAEA”. “The Iranian president promised distinctly that Tehran had no nuclear arms. He said this would be Iran’s official, unconditional and unchanged position.

Lavrov complained that lately the Iranian nuclear problem “has paled into insignificance. Other participants in the talks were too busy in the Middle East and North Africa”. “We are rather concerned over the events in the region and we consider wrong to forget the deadlock in Iran’ s nuclear programme,” Lavrov said.

The six world powers, including Russia, China, the United States, Britain, France, and Germany, still disagree on the need for additional sanctions against Iran. In particular, China has announced that it is not the right time to take any new measures against Tehran, as members of the U.N. Security Council have already adopted five resolutions against that country. Iran is under three sets of U.N. Security Council sanctions for refusing to stop its nuclear programme.

Western countries insist that Iran develops its nuclear programme for military purposes, while Tehran claims it pursues purely civilian purposes.

In June 2008, the Sextet stated a set of proposals that “open up big opportunities for Iran’s broad cooperation with the international community in a number of areas, including nuclear energy”.

.President Medvedev congratulates newly elected president of Vietnam.

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MOSCOW, July 25 (Itar-Tass) —— Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has sent a message of greetings to Truong Tan Sang on the occasion of his being elected President of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

The Kremlin press service quoted President Medvedev as saying that “Truong Tan Sang is known in Russia as a firm supporter of further strengthening of the relations of close cooperation between Russia and Vietnam which stood the test of time. The development of mutually advantageous cooperation with Vietnam in political, economic, humanitarian and other fields is a priority direction in Russia’s foreign politics in the Asia-Pacific region.

“Dear Mr. President, I hope for constructive cooperation with you for purposes of building Russian-Vietnamese comprehensive strategic partnership for the benefit of both countries and in the interests of ensuring peace, stability and sustainable development in the Asia-Pacific region,” Medvedev said in his message.

Medvedev also invited Truong Tan Sang to pay an official visit to the Russian Federation and suggested coordinating dates of the visit via diplomatic channels.

Vietnam’s National Assembly has appointed Truong Tan Sang the country’s new president on Monday.

Sang, 62, received more than 97 percent of the vote in his support.

.People will not tolerate Georgian administration long -Shevardnadze.

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TBILISI, July 25 (Itar-Tass) —— The people of Georgia will not tolerate the politics of the Georgian present-day administration for a long time, Georgian ex-president Eduard Shevardnadze said in an interview to the Tbilisi-based Asaval-Dasavali newspaper on Monday.

Shevardnadze drew attention to every-day price hikes, a high level of unemployment in the country and measures taken by the authorities which actually worsen, rather than improve the situation in the country.

“The people will not tolerate such politics for a long time. I suggest that the Georgian authorities should realistically think of ways to improve the life of the population and take measures to this effect; otherwise, the people might lose patience,” the 83-year-old ex-president warned.

.Medvedev signs agt on unified rules of state support to agriculture in CES.

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MOSCOW, July 25 (Itar-Tass) —— President Dmitry Medvedev signed the Federal Law “On the Ratification of the Agreement on the Unified Rules of State Support to Agriculture”, which was adopted by the State Duma on July 1, 2011 and approved by the Federation Council on July 6, 2011.

The law ratified the Agreement on the Unified Rules of State Support to Agriculture, which was signed in Moscow on December 9, 2010.

The document aims to cerate a legal framework and unified rules for state support in agriculture in the Common Economic Space (CES) being formed by Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia.

The purpose of the agreement is to create conditions for fair competition in the agrarian markets in Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia, expand mutual trade, and ensure sustainable development of agriculture by enacting transparent and unified rules of state support.

.Lukashenko, Bordyuzha discuss agenda of CSTO informal summit.

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MINSK, July 25 (Itar-Tass) — Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko met with Secretary-General of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation Nikolai Bordyuzha on Monday to discuss the agenda of the upcoming CSTO summit due to take place in Astana on August 12.

“The informal CSTO summit is expected to take place on August 12. We have to discuss a lot of issues. Due to the events in the world, the military-political alliance should coordinate its actions,” the Belarusian president said opening the meeting.

“We have nothing to conceal: the Moslem world is in a bustle. We cannot exclude that such situation can occur in our Moslems countries – Tajikistan. There are enough problems in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan,” he said.

According to Lukashenko, “There are other issues in our joint activity. These are military cooperation and economic relations.”

The Belarusian president noted that Bordyuzha had visited Armenia and Tajikistan. Lukashenko asked Bordyuzha to tell him about the situation in these countries. “We can discuss the issues, which can be raised at the summit in Kazakhstan, in terms of the events in these countries,” he said.

The CSTO secretary-general said he “visits Minsk regularly”. “I’m ready to tell you about the implementation of decisions, which have been recently taken in Minsk at the sessions of the CSTO Council of Ministers and the Council of Secretaries of CSTO Security Councils. I’m also ready to tell you about the results of my visits to Armenia, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan,” Bordyuzha said.

.Russian, Danish diplomats discuss Mideast, Libya.

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MOSCOW, July 25 (Itar-Tass) —— Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov received Danish Ambassador in Moscow Tom Risdahl Jensen at his request on Monday, July 25.

During the conversation the diplomats discussed ways of advancing the Middle East peace process as well as of overcoming the crisis in Libya.

They underlined the importance of continuing the Russian-Danish exchange of views on the situation in the region and their mutual keenness on ensuring peace and security there.

.Russian, Indian officials discuss bilateral, int’l issues.

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MOSCOW, July 25 (Itar-Tass) —— Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexei Borodavkin received Deputy National Security Adviser to the Prime Minister of India, Vijay Latha Reddy, on Monday, July 25.

During the conversation, they discussed prospects for the further development of the Russian-Indian strategic partnership and an array of regional and international issues from the viewpoint of coordination of efforts by the two countries in countering the present-day threats to stability and security. Special attention was paid to the themes of Afghanistan, North Africa and the Middle East.

.Russia supports Lebanon’s integrity, ready to cooperate with it – FM.

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MOSCOW, July 25 (Itar-Tass) —— Russia invariably supports the integrity of sovereign Lebanon and is committed to multifaceted cooperation with that country, the Foreign Ministry said on Monday, July 25, after a meeting between Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov and the Lebanese Charge d’Affaires in Moscow.

“During the conversation initiated by the Lebanese side, the diplomats discuss pressing issues of Russian-Lebanese relations and the situation in Libya, Syria and the Middle East in general,” the ministry said.

“The Russian side stressed the invariability of support to integrity and stability in sovereign Lebanon, and reiterated its readiness to continue multifaceted cooperation with that country and develop contacts with its leading public and political forces,” the ministry said.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Saltanov earlier noted good prospects for bilateral cooperation after visits to Russia by President Suleiman and Prime Minister Hariri, particularly in the energy sector and in the fields of water economy and military-technical cooperation.

In his opinion, “It is necessary to exert effort in order to implement the agreements that were reached.”

During his previous visit to the region last November, Saltanov and Lebanese Minister of Foreign Affairs Ali Al Shami discussed “pressing issues of Russian-Lebanese relations, with a focus on the importance of improving interaction between the foreign ministries of Russia and Lebanon in ensuring favourable conditions for the implementation of projects concerning economic, investment and military-technical cooperation,” the Foreign Ministry said.

The diplomats “exchanged views on the situation in the Middle East and other international issues of mutual interest.”

Saltanov stressed that “all pressing issues on the Lebanese national agenda should be solved by the Lebanese themselves, without outside interference, on the basis of the national Constitution, dialogue and accord among all leading political forces and confessions.”

“Violence should be excluded from political life in Lebanon once and for all,” he added.

Saltanov confirmed Russia’s invariable support for the special tribunal that will investigate the assassination of Lebanon’s former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and noted the importance of carrying out a thorough, impartial and unpoliticised investigation in order to ensure justice and help sustain stable and democratic development of sovereign Lebanon.

Russia called for a fair investigation of Hariri’s assassination from the very beginning, Andrei Nesterenko, a Foreign Ministry spokesman at that time, said.

“As is known, from the very beginning Russia called for a fair investigation of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri’s assassination, for those responsible for this crime to be found and brought to account,” he said. “Our position remains unchanged.”

“We have always believed that this work has to be thorough and impartial, legally clean and unpoliticised,” the Russian diplomat said.

“It is important to avoid actions that can destabilise the situation in the country, including various proposals that can be fed to mass media and that would anticipate the verdict that should base on

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