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Former KGB Spy Agency Marks 82nd Anniversary - 2002-12-21

Russia's top intelligence chief says that, despite new and improved relations with Western nations, there are still many spies who help Russia gain valuable information. The comments come in a rare interview carried on Russia's Interfax news service.

The Russian spy agency, once known as the KGB, marked the 82nd anniversary of its founding on Friday. To observe the occasion, the head of the Foreign Intelligence Service said that despite major changes over the past decade, some things remain the same, such as spying.

In an interview, Sergei Lebedev said spies in foreign countries often work, not for money, but out of political conviction. He said they agree with the Kremlin's stand that it is important to maintain a multi-polar world, to lessen the dominance of the United States in international affairs.

He added that many spies may oppose the use of force in resolving international conflicts, an apparent reference to possible military action against Iraq.

Mr. Lebedev said Russia does consider former enemies in the NATO military alliance as partners when their interests coincide, such as in fighting terrorism. But he added this does not mean partners won't continue to do intelligence work in the traditional fashion.

The Russian spy chief criticized the planned expansion of NATO in eastern Europe, especially into the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

President Vladimir Putin has also said the expansion is unwise, but he doesn't consider it a threat to Russia.

For his part, Mr. Putin praised the work of the intelligence services at a speech marking the anniversary on Friday. The Russian leader, who had a long career in the KGB before becoming president, announced plans to boost funding for the intelligence service.