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EU President Criticizes Lithuania for Blocking Talks With Russia


Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel is criticizing Lithuania for blocking a deal to start new partnership talks between the European Union and Russia.

Rupel said during a foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg Tuesday that there is no point to holding up the talks. He said he believes there can be an agreement with Russia within weeks, with or without Lithuania.

Slovenia currently holds the EU presidency.

Lithuanian officials have said they want Moscow to first resolve what they call "frozen conflicts," such as the dispute with Georgia over separatist regions. They also want Russia to resume oil deliveries through a pipeline to Lithuania's only oil refinery.

Russia cut off deliveries in 2006, citing technical reasons. But Lithuania says Russia was angered when the refinery was sold to a Polish group instead of Russians.

EU talks on a Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with Russia have been delayed for several years because of Moscow's objection to EU human rights demands and a meat export dispute with Poland.

Also Tuesday, EU ministers signed a compromise deal with Serbia on the start of EU pre-membership talks. But EU officials say the deal will not be ratified until Serbia improves cooperation with the United Nations' war crimes tribunal. The court is seeking the arrest of fugitive Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic and his top military leader, Ratko Mladic.

Some information for this report was provided by AP.

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