Iran General NewsMedvedev says would support U.N. and Iran

Medvedev says would support U.N. and Iran

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Washington Times: Russian presidential heir apparent Dmitry Medvedev, in his first major campaign speech yesterday, said he would seek to boost the power of the United Nations and would not sever Moscow’s ties to “problem states” like Iran, despite Western pressure. The Washington Times

By David R. Sands

Russian presidential heir apparent Dmitry Medvedev, in his first major campaign speech yesterday, said he would seek to boost the power of the United Nations and would not sever Moscow’s ties to “problem states” like Iran, despite Western pressure.

Mr. Medvedev, chairman of the energy giant Gazprom and longtime ally of President Vladimir Putin, also said Russia’s economy needed “decades of stable development” to catch up to the West and promised a vigorous drive to root out corruption.

The nationally televised address took a softer rhetorical line than that favored recently by Mr. Putin but came on a day when Russia’s military staged another exercise heavy with symbolic echoes of the old Soviet superpower days.

In the first such exercises since the Cold War, Russian warships and nuclear bombers test-fired live missiles in the Bay of Biscay off the coasts of Spain and Portugal. The three-day exercise had been cleared in advance with NATO planners but was widely seen as the latest in a series of moves by the Kremlin to advertise Russia’s reviving military might.

Mr. Medvedev’s half-hour address, delivered to a group of Kremlin-friendly civic groups, avoided the pugnacious tone used by Mr. Putin in recent months as Moscow’s relations with the United States and Europe have soured.

He said Russia had to do a better job explaining its policies to its neighbors.

“Why do they fear us? The answer in my opinion is obvious — in part it is simply not clear to them where Russia is going,” said Mr. Medvedev. “All these fears persist today, and we must continue to explain our plans openly and clearly.”

He promised that Russia would take an active role in global affairs “based on the observance of principles and rules of international law and on enhancing the role of the United Nations in resolving world problems.”

But he also rejected the idea that Russia was trying to intimidate its former Soviet territories or that Moscow should pull back from its economic and diplomatic ties to countries like Iran.

Russia’s ties to what he called “problem countries” like Iran would continue, he said.

“The least-productive thing we could do would be to break off those relations and switch to carpet-bombing,” he said.

The low-key Mr. Medvedev, a lawyer by training, is a heavy favorite to win the March 2 presidential vote after being tapped by the popular Mr. Putin as his designated successor. Mr. Medvedev has promised to carry on the Putin agenda and has even invited the president to serve as his prime minister.

Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov and flamboyant nationalist politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky are expected to offer only token opposition in the presidential race.

Mikhail Kasyanov, once Mr. Putin’s prime minister and now a fierce Kremlin critic, could have his long-shot presidential bid derailed after prosecutors yesterday opened a criminal case into charges his campaign falsified voter signatures to qualify for the ballot.

Much of Mr. Medvedev’s speech yesterday was devoted to domestic topics.

He pledged to build Russia’s market economy and said that with the right policies Russia could rank as one of the world’s five biggest economies by 2020.

But he also had some pointed words regarding corruption, saying the country’s judicial system was woefully lacking in the fight.

“Russia is a country of legal nihilism at a level … that no European country can boast of,” he said. “Corruption in the official structures is at a huge scale and the fight against it should be a national [priority”>.”

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