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Last Updated: Friday, 20 July 2007, 17:48 GMT 18:48 UK
Russia wants normal ties with UK
Sergei Lavrov
Mr Lavrov struck a conciliatory note
Russia wants to restore normal ties with the UK following tit-for-tat expulsions of diplomats, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said.

He said he assumed ties with London were "based on respect for each other's interests and common sense".

The diplomats' expulsions come amid a row over Moscow's refusal to extradite a man accused of killing ex-KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko.

Meanwhile the suspect, Andrei Lugovoi, reiterated that he was innocent.

In an interview with Russia's Ekho Moskvy Moscow radio, he also repeated his contention that British secret services were involved in the death of Mr Litvinenko.

"I am not saying that they were the ones who killed Litvinenko," he said.

1 November 2006: Alexander Litvinenko meets Andrei Lugovoi and another Russian at a London hotel
23 November 2006: Litvinenko dies in a London hospital
24 November 2006: A Litvinenko statement accuses Russian President Vladimir Putin of involvement in his death. Experts say Litvinenko was poisoned
6 December 2006: UK police say they are treating the death as murder
22 May 2007: Lugovoi should be charged with Litvinenko's murder, British prosecutors say
28 May 2007: UK makes formal request for Lugovoi's extradition from Russia

"However, I am firmly convinced that it was done with their connivance and their silent consent."

Mr Lavrov - who is visiting Berlin - was quoted by the Russian Interfax news agency as saying "Russia is interested in normalising its relations with Britain - assuming they are based on respect for each other's interests and the common sense. We are ready for this."

On Monday four Russian embassy staff were expelled from the UK, prompting Moscow to retaliate to ask the British embassy staff to leave within 10 days.

Mr Lavrov also denied that his government stopped co-operating with Britain in the fight against terrorism as a reprisal for the expulsions.

He said it was Britain that had ended the co-operation with Russia's security service, the FSB.

Mr Litvinenko, who had taken UK citizenship, died of exposure to radioactive polonium-210 in London in November 2006.

Traces of the radioactive isotope was found in several places visited by Mr Lugovoi.

Under the European Convention on Extradition 1957, Russia has the right to refuse the extradition of a citizen and its constitution expressly forbids extradition.

The UK has the right to request Mr Lugovoi be tried in Russia, but the UK's director of public prosecutions has already turned down the offer.

He has recommended Mr Lugovoi be tried for murder by "deliberate poisoning".

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