Sergei Ivanov In London

Russia's Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov, who is on a visit in London, will have talks with Foreign Secretary Jack Straw on Friday. They are expected to discuss a wide range of questions bearing on strategic stability, Russia-NATO relations, new threats facing the world and the struggle against international terrorism. Before that, Ivanov had talks with his counterpart, Geoffrey Hoon. The Russian minister said at a press conference after that talks that they discussed the struggle against international terror, in particular in Afghanistan. As Ivanov said, Russia "is closely collaborating with Britain" in this sphere. Mr Hoon said that he had informed the Russian minister about the role which Britain would play in the multinational forces in Afghanistan. It was said at the press conference that the minister had signed a plan of actions to develop the collaboration of their departments in 2002. Sergei Ivanov made several important statements during the press conference. In particular, he said that during his talks with Hoon he offered Britain, which would play a leading role in the multinational forces in Afghanistan, the use of the Russian hospital in Kabul. Replying to journalists' questions, the Russian minister stated that the Georgian authorities were not prepared to join forces in the struggle against terrorism in the Caucasus. Ivanov stressed that "we do not see any attempt or striving of the Georgian authorities to resume control over the Pankisi Gorge." He pointed out that it is a fact that the said region of Georgia is occupied by terrorists and that "financial and other assistance is provided" from that region in Georgia "to terrorists and mercenaries in Chechnya."

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