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Last Updated: Sunday, 22 October 2006, 01:07 GMT 02:07 UK
US 'concern' over Russia reporter
Anna Politkovskaya
Anna Politkovskaya wrote about rights abuses in Chechnya
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has met relatives and colleagues of a murdered journalist during a visit to the Russian capital Moscow.

Anna Politkovskaya, a harsh critic of President Vladimir Putin and Russian policy in Chechnya, was gunned down in her apartment building two weeks ago.

Ms Rice said the fate of journalists in Russia was "a major concern".

She was in Moscow for talks with President Putin, expected to focus on the North Korean crisis.

Ms Politkovskaya, 46, was an investigative reporter for newspaper Novaya Gazeta. She was one of the few Russian journalists to write about alleged human rights abuses in Chechnya.

No arrests have been made in the case.

Ms Rice had requested the meeting with Ms Politkovskaya's son, Ilya Politkovsky, and Novaya Gazeta's editor-in-chief, Dmitry Muratov.

A state department official said the meeting was not meant as a slight to Mr Putin, but was to show support for what was left of the free media in Russia.

"We planned this not as a poke in the eye but an absolutely necessary and human step," the official said.

'Cooler heads'

US officials also sought details on Russia's new law requiring foreign non-governmental organisations to re-register. NGOs have said that the new legislation is an attempt to curtail their work.

"In some cases it is being implemented in ways that is making it difficult for NGOs to operate," Ms Rice said.

On Russia's troubled ties with Georgia, she urged both sides "to do everything they can to de-escalate the tensions" between them.

"I think we have been clear with both sides that cooler heads need to prevail here," she said.

Russia has cut transport and postal links with Georgia following Georgia's brief arrest of four Russian military officers it accused of spying.

North Korea tensions

Ms Rice's main reason for visiting Moscow was to bolster support for implementing international sanctions against North Korea.

Ms Rice with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov
Ms Rice arrived from talks on North Korea in Beijing

The UN Security Council voted last week for sanctions targeting Pyongyang's nuclear and missile programmes in response to the communist state's 9 October underground nuclear test.

Ms Rice held talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to discuss the measures.

Earlier, she had cast doubt on the suggestion North Korea had ruled out a second test after a visit from a senior Chinese envoy, Tang Jiaxuan.

"Tang did not tell me that (North Korean leader) Kim Jong-il either apologised for the test or said that he would not ever test again," Ms Rice said.

"The North Koreans, I think, would like to see an escalation of the tension."




SEE ALSO
Rice: 'N Korea escalating crisis'
21 Oct 06 |  Asia-Pacific
The hitmen who stalk Russia
08 Oct 06 |  Europe
Obituary: Anna Politkovskaya
07 Oct 06 |  Europe

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