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Russian Defense Minister: Moscow Will Go After Terrorists Outside Borders

Russia's defense minister, Sergei Ivanov, said Friday his country reserves the right to launch preventive strikes on suspected terrorist bases outside the national territory. Mr. Ivanov's comments follow talks in Florence with his Italian counterpart.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov made clear Moscow would act against terrorists, even outside its own territory.

Speaking at a joint news conference with his Italian counterpart, Antonio Martino, Mr. Ivanov said, "Russia reserves the right to [launch] preventive strikes on terrorist bases, and has declared this right many times." He cited a U.N. Security Council resolution adopted after a terrorist attack last September on a school in Russia, in which children were taken hostage and many died.

The resolution called on countries to prosecute or extradite anyone supporting or participating in terrorist acts.

Mr. Ivanov was responding to Georgia's request this week to the European Union to send international observers to monitor its border with Russia. Georgia said Russia was planning "preventive strikes" against terrorists Moscow says operate there.

The Russian defense minister said Moscow has never named Georgia as the target of a possible strike.

The European Union, which is keen to develop closer relations with former Soviet states, sent observers to Georgia last week to assess the risks on the border with Russia, but has not taken a decision on whether to offer monitors.

Russia is resistant to any EU presence in ex-Soviet states, which it believes remain within its sphere of influence.

The Italian and Russian defense ministers also discussed development of bilateral military cooperation.

Mr. Martino said the Italian government realizes Russia's importance for international security structures, and praised the establishment of the Russia-NATO Council three years ago at the Italian Pratica di Mare naval base.

Mr. Ivanov said Russia and Italy had no differences in military cooperation, and added that the two countries would carry out joint naval exercises next year.