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Thailand Delays Extradition of Alleged Russian Arms Dealer

The Thai government says there are more legal procedures that must be done before it can extradite an alleged Russian arms dealer to the United States. This comes a day after Thai police said he would be extradited immediately.

Thailand's Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said Wednesday there are still a few steps before Russian Viktor Bout can be handed over to U.S.

Bout faces U.S. charges of conspiring to kill Americans and officers and supporting a terrorist organization.

An appeals court last week ruled he should be extradited. Thai security officials on Tuesday said he would be put aboard a U.S. plane on Wednesday.

However, Thani Thongphakdi, a foreign ministry spokesman, says a second extradition request the U.S. filed earlier this year must be officially dropped first.

"We received the official notification from the US side to withdraw the second case yesterday," Thongphakdi said. "So, we will be informing the office of the Attorney General and then they will have to proceed with the court."

Thani would not estimate how long the process will take, saying that it depends on the attorney general's office and the court.

He rejected concerns that political pressure may have led to a delay in the extradition. The Russian government objects to it and a lower Thai court last year ruled that Bout could not be handed over to the United States.

Before the appeals court ruling last week, the U.S. State Department called in the Thai ambassador to stress that Washington considers Bout's transfer very important.

"We understand the sensitivity of this case since the very beginning. That is why that in consideration of this case by the courts, that the government has not or will not interfere in the said process. The court has used its discretion without political pressure," Thongphakdi said.

A U.S. Embassy spokeswoman refused to answer any questions about the case citing Department of Justice policy not to comment on pending extradition's. She also would not comment on reports that the United States had a plane flown to Bangkok this week to take Bout into custody.

A Russian diplomat said the embassy had not been notified that Bout is about to be handed over to U.S. custody.

Bout was arrested in Bangkok in 2008 for allegedly offering to sell missiles and other weapons to U.S. agents that would be used against U.S. targets.

The agents were posing as members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the FARC, a rebel group the U.S. considers to be a terrorist organization.

Bout is alleged to be one of the world's biggest suppliers of weapons, fueling dictators and wars across Africa, the Middle East, and South America. He denies the accusation and maintains he ran a legitimate air cargo business.