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Last Updated:  Sunday, 23 March, 2003, 06:11 GMT
Russia condemns 'US spy flights'
By Nikolay Gorshkov
BBC correspondent in Moscow

U2 spy plane
U2s were apparently spotted over the Caucasus
Russia has lodged a formal protest with the United States over the reported flights of US spy planes along Russia's southern borders.

Three flights of U2 strategic reconnaissance planes were said to have taken place along the border with Georgia over the past month.

The latest was sighted on Saturday.

Russia has labelled these flights as "a return to the Cold War practice", which increased tensions in the volatile region already affected by the war in Iraq.

Disapproval

Meanwhile, the Turkish ambassador in Moscow was summoned to the foreign ministry to offer assurances that no Turkish soldiers had crossed into northern Iraq.

Russia has urged Turkey to respect Iraq's territorial integrity and abstain from taking any steps that have not been sanctioned by the United Nations.

Earlier, addressing a leading Russian foreign policy think-tank, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said Iraq did not need "democracy on the wings of Tomahawks".

Russia, Mr Ivanov said, disapproved of "exporting democracy" to sovereign states, especially in the Islamic world, where such efforts could lead to more extremism.

In his words, that would run contrary to the aims of the anti-terror coalition.

Mr Ivanov said Russia was concerned by the rift between Europe and America, and did not want the Iraq crisis to undermine its relations with Washington.


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