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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Spy Chief Warns of Bases Threat

Foreign forces deployed at bases along Russia's periphery are a threat to the country, Foreign Intelligence Service chief Sergei Lebedev said in an interview published Monday, the eve of his service's 85th anniversary.

In comments that appeared to be directed at U.S. forces deployed at bases in former Soviet countries, Interfax quoted Sergei Lebedev as saying that Russia no longer had a "main adversary" as during the Cold War.

But "Russians cannot help but be concerned about new military bases and military contingents being deployed around our country," he said, Interfax reported.

Russia has watched warily as the United States deployed forces to the Central Asian countries of Kyrgyz-stan and Uzbekistan and strengthened military and political ties with Ukraine and Georgia. Also, the three Baltic nations of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania joined NATO in 2004 over Moscow's strong objections. Lebedev did not name any specific countries that Russia considered a threat.

"New, but no less serious threats and challenges facing our state's security have replaced old threats and challenges," he said. "Today, the most serious threats are from international terrorism, from religious and nationalist extremism."

Lebedev also said that the Foreign Intelligence Service had no information that Iran was building nuclear weapons and he saw no reason to attack Iran.

"We have been monitoring the events surrounding Iran carefully," Lebedev said.

"As of now, we have no information that Iran is developing nuclear weapons.

"Consequently, there is no reason to use force against Iran," he said.

Separately, Lebedev was quoted as saying by Interfax that two-thirds of al-Qaida's leadership has been destroyed over the past four years. And he said Russia itself had succeeded in killing several al-Qaida-linked militants who were operating in the North Caucasus.

Last week, federal authorities announced they had killed Saudi-born Abu Omar al-Seif, who analysts said was a conduit for foreign funding of terrorist activities.

In a separate interview with Rossiiskaya Gazeta, which was timed to come out on the eve of the intelligence service's 85th anniversary, Lebedev said he opposed reuniting his service with the Federal Security Service and the Federal Guard Service.

The three services were united in the Soviet-era KGB.

President Vladimir Putin, himself a former KGB spy in East Germany, on Monday attended a meeting of the Foreign Intelligence Service's top brass and praised the "increased quality" of the service's intelligence briefs, noting that these briefs now included recommendations.

Putin also told the meeting that he considered the intelligence service to be one "of the most combat-ready and efficient special services in the world," RIA-Novosti reported.

(AP, MT)