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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Terror Debate Moves To Duma

APA woman lighting a candle Tuesday at St. Nicholas Church for victims in the U.S. Many Moscow churches had memorial services.
The State Duma, confronting requests from Washington for logistical help in a possible strike on Afghanistan, set the stage Tuesday for a debate on the issue.

The Duma scheduled the debate for Wednesday at the same time as U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage is expected in town for talks on coordinating a response to the attacks.

Also Wednesday, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov is to meet U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell in Washington. Speaking after brief talks with Norwegian Foreign Minister Thorbjoern Jagland en route to meet with Powell, Ivanov said the world had to unite in a "long-term and continuous process."

"We have said repeatedly that a coordinated effort spanning all measures is needed in the fight against international terrorism," Ivanov said through a translator at a meeting with reporters after talks with Jagland at the Oslo airport.

U.S. Ambassador Alexander Vershbow met Duma members on the eve of the discussion to renew calls for joint action.

Russia's leadership, quick to offer Washington its support in the hours following the attacks, has since been cautious. President Vladimir Putin and other officials have urged Washington to be careful in identifying the target of any riposte and have been hesitant in offering cooperation in terms of airspace and bases in Central Asia.

The head of Putin's Security Council, Vladimir Rushailo, dispatched on a tour of Central Asia, said Tuesday that U.S. action should take account of international law and avoid civilian casualties.

Afghanistan, where Soviet troops battled U.S.-backed guerrillas for a decade before withdrawing, remains the focus of any strike. Armitage is to meet members of a standing Russia-U.S. group on Afghanistan, led by Deputy Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Trubnikov, a former head of Russian counterintelligence.

Armitage has been forthright in persuading foreign leaders to line up behind the U.S. aim of a united front of states committed to tracking and punishing the perpetrators.

His visit is the second this week by a top U.S. diplomat. John Bolton, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security affairs, said he raised no "operational issues" like the use of bases. But he said the "abomination" of last week's attacks underscored the need to proceed with the anti-missile shield, which Russia opposes.

The Duma debate, though unlikely to influence official policy on forthcoming U.S. moves, exposed deep splits, with liberals generally in favor and leftists opposed. The head of the centrist Fatherland-All Russia faction, Vyacheslav Volodin, proposed supporting whatever stand Putin adopted and offering help "at the very least because we know things about Afghanistan that the United States does not."

Grigory Yavlinsky, head of the liberal Yabloko party, wanted "firm, active and unreserved" backing for any U.S. undertaking.

But Communist Party chief Gennady Zyuganov said Russia "must not become involved in this war" and the Duma's Communist speaker criticized "talk of strikes against entire countries."

Dmitry Rogozin, head of the Duma's international affairs committee, wanted to limit the scope and time frame of support. "If the Americans use bases on the territory [of former Soviet republics], it should not later turn into a permanent place of residence," he said on ORT television.

In Tbilisi, Georgia's defense minister, David Tevzadze, told reporters that the country would assist the United States "if the United States requires that assistance." Georgia, which has aspirations to join NATO, is located across the Caspian Sea from the Central Asian countries that border Afghanistan.

Putin spoke with Chinese President Jiang Zemin by telephone Tuesday and they decided to work out between their countries a "mechanism" for fighting terrorism, the Kremlin said.

The two presidents discussed the need to work in conjunction with the United Nations, its Security Council and together with other international organizations. Putin and Ziang also both called French President Jacques Chirac before his trip to Washington on Tuesday.

Chirac is the first foreign head of state to visit Washington since last week's attacks. France, like other European allies, has said it is ready to join U.S. retaliatory action but officials have warned against moves leading to escalation along regional or religious lines.