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Russia warns Britain not to reopen British Council PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 07 January 2008

Russia said on Thursday it would consider provocative any attempt by Britain to reopen regional offices Russia warns Britain not to reopen British Council of the British Council, its cultural arm, in comments that showed no sign a diplomatic spat is easing.

Russia on December 12, 2007 ordered the British government's cultural arm to halt work from January 1 at all its regional offices, saying Britain had broken a host of international and domestic rules.

The move is considered to be part of a broader diplomatic row, sparked by the murder of former Russian agent Alexander Litvinenko, a critic of the Kremlin who was poisoned by radiation in London in November 2006.

Britain this week reiterated that the British Council operates with full legal status and said it hoped offices in St Petersburg and Yekaterinburg will reopen after the New Year break, which usually lasts for about two weeks.

'We assume that the British side will act by the Russian laws and will stop the illegal activities of the Council,' said Mikhail Kamynin, a Russian foreign ministry spokesman.

'Any other action would be of provocative character and would aim at worsening the situation in bilateral relations/ Kamynin said in a statement, the first official comments on the issue in 2008.

Relations between Britain and Russia are at their worst since the Cold War, soured by the Litvinenko murder, mutual espionage allegations and the political asylu'm given by Britain to prominent Russian enemies of the president, Vladimir Putin.
Russia said Britain had broken rules while registering 15 regional offices of the British Council, a claim London denies.

The Council had earlier closed regional offices everywhere in Russia except Moscow, St Petersburg and Yekaterinburg. The last two have been closed for a break since the ,New Year.

The British Council has said; it hoped to reopen the offices after the New Year and was in discussion with Russian authorities to resolve the issue over the next two weeks.

Kamyiiin said the Council's; office in Moscow would continue to operate but made no mention of any discussion' involving regional offices.

He also said Moscow was unhappy about the involvement of third parties. In December, the European Union called on Russia to withdraw its demand the British Council shut its offices.

'We are surprised by Britain's attempt not only to defy the obvious, but to involve Sources in the airport claimed the two, with the help of some police officials, left the country by a Malaysia Airlines flight on December 29.

The battalion and the airport police, however, said they were unaware of their leaving the country.

Two other prime suspects, Abbas Ali and Nasir.Uddin, were interrogated by the police and the task force for interrogation during their three days of remand in custody which ended on Friday. The two reportedly admitted their involvement in stealing the two artifacts for selling them for high prices.

The police produced them in court on Friday and sought them to be remanded in custody for seven days. The court granted a remand for four days in the discussion other countries, especially the European Union, which are doomed to be on the side of the loser,' he said.
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