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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 November 2005, 22:29 GMT
Democracy takes time, says Lavrov
By Steve Rosenberg
BBC News, Moscow

Sergei Lavrov
Sergei Lavrov said Russia still had interests in ex-Soviet states
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said some former Soviet states cannot be expected to become Western-style democracies overnight.

In an exclusive interview with the BBC, Mr Lavrov also called on the West to recognise that Russia has legitimate interests in the former Soviet space.

His comments came as thousands of opposition supporters demonstrated in the Azerbaijan's capital Baku.

They called for the results of the recent elections to be overturned.

Mr Lavrov told the BBC that Moscow sought stability and prosperity for countries that had once been part of the Soviet Union.

Moscow would, he said, work together with Europe and America to achieve that.

EU plea

He said he did not believe though that Western-style democracy could be forced upon the region.

"We believe that you cannot just demand from these countries, from many of these countries, to take a law which would pronounce their full democracy western style and there is no experience in world history where you can achieve democracy overnight," he said.

His comments followed talks with a delegation from the European Union.

The EU has called for more democracy on Russia's borders. This week it criticised Azerbaijan's parliamentary poll and it threatened Belarus with economic sanctions unless democratic elections were held there.

Mr Lavrov acknowledged that the West had legitimate interests, like energy resources, in some parts of the former USSR.

But he called on the international community to recognise what he described as Moscow's legitimate interest in areas which only 15 years ago had been part of the same country as Russia.

Text: Sergei Lavrov interview
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