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Russian Foreign Minister Draws Red Line Against Bargaining

Russia's Foreign Minister says Moscow will not bargain over what he calls "red line" issues of national security. These include the proposed U.S. missile-defense system in Central Europe and the independence of Kosovo in the Balkans. VOA Correspondent Peter Fedynsky reports from the Russian capital.

Speaking at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, a leading Russian school for diplomats, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia's partners must understand that his country will not bargain over U.S. plans for a missile defense system in Central Europe, or the status of Kosovo.

For us there are so-called red lines, says Minister Lavrov, when real threats are created that jeopardize our interests or the world order.

The Russian officials says those threats include a U.S. plan for a missile defense system in Central Europe, Kosovo's independence from Serbia, possible NATO expansion, and what Lavrov calls a dead-end situation with the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty.

In July, President Vladimir Putin suspended Russia's participation in the CFE treaty, which limits heavy military equipment and deployments in Europe.

Regarding Kosovo, Western allies are proposing internationally-supervised independence for the ethnic-Albanian majority of that Serbian province. Moscow will not accept any solution that is not supported by Serbia, Russia's traditional ally.

The United States says the missile-defense system that would based in Poland and the Czech Republic is targeted against a potential threat from Iran. U.S. officials have also given Russian leaders personal assurance that they would have unprecedented rights to inspect the proposed system.

The director of Moscow's Institute for Strategic Studies and Analysis, Vagif Guseynov, told VOA there may be doubts about those assurances, which Russian leaders received in person from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

"At first glance," says Guseynov, "the assurances sound appealing, but we do not know the entire set of problems and issues reviewed by Gates, Condoleezza Rice and the political leadership of Russia."

The analyst says many Russians understand American concerns about Iran. But he adds that his country's political class does not trust U.S. intentions, partly because of recent actions undertaken by American political and military leaders in various parts of the world.

While Foreign Minister Lavrov rejected any bargaining over vital issues, he left the door open to diplomatic engagement. He noted that nobody wants to create a situation that would require starting at zero in order to create a European security structure that would fit today's needs.