Govt underplays reports on Pranab meetings with Russian leaders

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New Delhi, Oct 18 (UNI) The government today dismissed as ''without foundation'' and ''completely unwarranted'' media reports that External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee could not meet his Russian counterpart during his recent visit to Moscow as the Russian Foreign Minister was ''too busy'' with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

''There have been exaggerated comments and analysis in the media on the visit of the EAM to Moscow. These are without foundation and seek to draw inferences that are completely unwarranted,'' an External Affairs Ministry spokesman said here late tonight. However, the spokesman said the Russian Foreign Ministry had explained to the Indian side that it (the meeting) would not be possible this time.

No reason was given but the government asserted that this would not affect the friendly relations between the two countries.

Media reports said here today that the External Affairs Minister, during his October 11-12 visit to Moscow, failed to meet some of the key figures in the Russian leadership including his counterpart Sergei Lavrov who was ''too busy'' with the US Secretary of State.

The External Affairs Minister also could not meet Russian President Vladimir Putin, the report said.

The spokesman said in response to a question that Mr Mukherjee's visit to Moscow was to co-chair the India-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission to promote economic, technological and cultural cooperation.

He had detailed discussions with Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Zhukov. In particular, agreement was reached on operationalising the Report of the Joint Study Group to enhance India-Russian economic cooperation, the statement said.

Other meetings are held during such visits in both India and Russia.

However, the Russian Foreign Ministry ''explained to us that this was not possible this time.'' ''This does not in any way affect the friendly ties between the two countries,'' the spokesman added.

UNI

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