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Russia Upset with US Over Mideast Policies

Russia's foreign minister says he plans to demand an explanation from the United States over its growing military presence in the Middle East.

He also criticized the U.S. over its policies toward Iran.

Sergei Lavrov spoke Saturday in Moscow to Russian media ahead of a planned trip to Washington. He is meeting here next week as part of the Mideast Quartet that is trying to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. The Quartet also includes the United Nations and the European Union.

Lavrov took issue with the U.S. over what he called "aggressive rhetoric." And he criticized Washington for demanding tough sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program.

Lavrov urged the U.S. to include both Iran and Syria in regional discussions. He said it could have a positive effect on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

President Bush has said often that he will not hold talks with either Iran or Syria. He accuses both of promoting unrest in the Middle East.

The U.S. also backs U.N. sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program. On Friday, the State Department warned of more punitive action if Iran goes ahead with plans to speed up uranium enrichment.

The U.S. accuses Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons. Iran insists that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

In a separate development, President Bush this week ordered U.S. forces in Iraq to take whatever actions they consider necessary against Iranian agents.

The United States accuses Iran of providing training and material support to Iraqi insurgents.

President Bush also announced recently that he is sending more than 21,000 additional troops to Iraq in an effort to halt the violence there.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.