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Future EU Commissioner Says Russia Backslides on Democracy - 2004-10-05

The incoming European Union External Relations Commissioner says Russia is backsliding on democracy and has called on EU leaders to hold frank talks with top Russian officials on the issue.

Benita Ferrero-Waldner stressed the need for open and frank dialogue with Russian leaders in comments Tuesday during European Parliament confirmation hearings in Brussels.

Ms. Ferrero-Waldner, who is Austria's outgoing foreign minister, said she has discussed the Chechen conflict with Russian President Vladimir Putin. She said she stressed the importance for Russia to respect human rights and for democracy to take root in that country.

Ms. Ferrero-Waldner also took note of differences between much of Europe and the United States over the Iraq war, but said both sides must move on. She said Europe must focus on multilateralism and pledged to seek a permanent U. N. Security Council seat for the European Union.