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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

Lavrov Blames Kosovo

STRASBOURG, France -- Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday blamed Kosovo's government in Pristina for the lack of progress in talks on the future of the province, and said the international community should not push for an end-of-the-year deadline to settle the issue.

"The negotiations can't get off the ground largely due to the fact that the leadership in Pristina insists on independence for Kosovo. That is not a constructive approach," Lavrov said at the Council of Europe, where he was taking over a six-month rotating presidency of the 46-nation human rights watchdog. (AP)

'No Preconditions for Iran'

STRASBOURG, France -- Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Friday that negotiations with Iran without preconditions were the way to resolve the nuclear standoff, and reiterated Russia was against sanctions or the use of force against Tehran.

"We are not putting forward any preliminary conditions. We are convinced that the Iranian issue must be solved solely through direct negotiations, on the basis on of agreement that would ensure the future of the nonproliferation regime and the rights of all the parties of the regime to develop their peaceful nuclear programs," Lavrov said at the Council of Europe. (AP)

Putin Meets Hariri

President Vladimir Putin met Friday with Saad Hariri, leader of Lebanon's largest parliamentary bloc and son of assassinated former prime minister Rafik Hariri, two days after the UN Security Council pressed Syria to establish diplomatic relations with Lebanon and mark their shared border.

The Kremlin said Hariri's visit to Putin's residence in Sochi was aimed at helping normalize the situation in the Middle East and strengthening Russian economic clout in the region. (AP)

Beslan Relatives Complain

VLADIKAVKAZ -- Relatives of the Beslan school hostage seizure accused authorities Friday of lying and covering up facts, as a judge continued reading the lengthy verdict at the trial of the only man to be prosecuted in the attack that killed 331.

At the beginning of the sentencing process on Tuesday, North Ossetian Supreme Court Judge Tamerlan Aguzarov indicated that Nurpashi Kulayev would be found guilty, but a verdict will not be formally handed down until the reading concludes, a lengthy process that was set to continue Monday. (AP)

Kadyrov Invites Activists

GROZNY -- Chechen Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov, whom critics say operates secret prisons, on Friday said European human rights groups could investigate every part of Chechnya in order to lay the allegations to rest.

"I invite human rights supporters from European structures and from Russia to come and look into any corner of the republic, to look into the presence of secret prisons, to study the condition of human rights," Kadyrov said at a meeting with Chechen rights activists. Such an investigation could "close this question forever," Kadyrov said. (AP)

Rights Activist Acquitted

A Dagestan court has acquitted Osman Boliyev, head of the Romashka human rights group, of charges of illegal weapons possession, which rights groups had said were fabricated, officials said.

The International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights has said Boliyev was investigating the 2004 kidnapping of a local man it named as Israilov and had sent his case to the European Court of Human Rights. (AP)

Sweden Arrests, Frees Uzbek

STOCKHOLM --An exiled Uzbek dissident wanted on an Interpol warrant was arrested at Sweden's biggest airport, but released after investigators found out he had been granted asylum in Norway, police and prosecutors said Friday.

Human Rights Watch criticized the arrest of Mohammad Solikh, a leader of a banned opposition group in Uzbekistan, but Swedish authorities said they had followed normal procedures. (AP)

Exile Church Votes

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia said Friday that it would move toward reconciling with the Moscow-based parent church it split from after the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution.

The two churches would still have separate administrations, but would allow their followers to worship in each other's churches. (AP)

Orthodox, Catholic Talks

ROME -- Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Kirill called on Friday for the Orthodox and Catholic churches to work together to insist that Europe recognize its Christian roots.

Kirill, the top foreign relations official in the Russian church, spoke to a news conference after meeting with Pope Benedict XVI on Thursday evening at the Vatican. (AP)

Ex-Governor Pleads in U.S.

MIAMI -- A former Ukrainian governor arrested in Florida last year asked a judge to halt his deportation, claiming U.S. officials had violated his rights and failed to verify charges against him, according to a lawsuit.

Volodymyr Shcherban, 55, was accused of extortion and abuse of power in Ukraine's tumultuous 2004 election after he entered the United States in April 2005. He applied for asylum in July and was detained Oct. 12, four days after his visa had expired. (AP)

Azeri Editor Severely Beaten

BAKU, Azerbaijan -- The editor of an opposition newspaper in Azerbaijan was in emergency care after being abducted and severely beaten -- the latest in a series of attacks on reporters.

Bahaddin Khaziyev, editor of the Bizim Yol, or Our Way, newspaper, was seized late Thursday in the capital, Baku, by five men who put a bag over his head and drove him to a lake outside the city, said the head of the opposition Popular Front, Ali Kerimli. (AP)

Crash Kills 6 Peacekeepers

SUKHUMI, Georgia -- An armored personnel carrier fell into a river in a road accident Saturday in the breakaway Georgian region of Abkhazia, killing six Russian peacekeepers, officials said.

The region's interior minister, Otar Khetsiya, said the driver had apparently lost control of the vehicle. (AP)

U.S. Criticizes Interpol Talks

WASHINGTON -- The United States denounced the "business-as-usual" attitude involving Belarus that led Interpol to stage its annual regional meeting in Minsk.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack noted widespread denunciation of Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko's government and praised members of the EU that, like the United States, boycotted the conference. Only 12 of the 46 countries in the region attended the conference Wednesday and Thursday. (AP)

For the Record

A Delta Air Lines jet from Moscow landed safely at New York's Kennedy Airport on Friday despite an apparently minor tire problem, authorities said. The incident involved Delta Flight 31. (AP)

Ukrainian cultural figures and celebrities on Friday slammed efforts to grant the Russian language a special status, calling it an act of war against the state and the Ukrainian language. (AP)

Gunmen attacked a village in the breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia, sparking a gunbattle that killed two of the assailants and wounded one person, officials said Sunday. (AP)