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British Official Holding Terrorism Talks in Moscow - 2001-10-31

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw is in Moscow for talks that are expected to focus on the fight against terrorism.

Mr. Straw's visit is part of a major diplomatic effort by Britain aimed at shoring up support among those countries that have joined the U.S.-led anti-terror coalition. Mr. Straw is to hold talks with Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov.

In an interview with Russia's Interfax news agency, the British official said his main task will be what he termed "practical discussions on the new international situation" and its consequences. Mr. Straw referred to Russia as a key partner in supporting the anti-terror coalition.

Russia has given strong support to the U.S. led coalition, offering the use of Russian airspace for humanitarian missions, accepting a U.S. military presence in the former Soviet republics of Central Asia, and providing arms to the anti-Taleban alliance in Northern Afghanistan.

In terms of bilateral relations between Britain and Russia, Mr. Straw said there has not been such a positive period in relations between the two countries in more than a century.

Mr. Straw said the main goal of the military campaign in Afghanistan is to track down those responsible for the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington.

The British official also referred directly to Russia's campaign against separatists in Chechnya. He said Britain understands that Russia is grappling with a serious problem in Chechnya and he condemned what he said was "the real terrorist threat from there to the Russian Federation's territorial integrity." He said there is no doubt that links exist between some extremist Chechen groups and Osama bin Laden. Mr. Straw said it is vital to break those links.