Britain freezes anti-terror cooperation with Russia's FSB

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Moscow, Jan 18 (UNI) Britain has suspended its anti-terrorist cooperation with Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), a mid the ongoing diplomatic row over the ban on the British Council offices in St Petersburg and Yekaterinburg.

The British side has frozen ties with the FSB after the Russian side did not extradite Andrei Lugovoi, a suspect in the murder of former FSB (ex-KGB) officer Alexander Litvinenko, the British ambassador to Russia Tony Brenton said in an interview to leading Russian business daily Kommersant.

Mr Brenton said Britain was ready to continue cooperating with other Russian security agencies, adding that all other contacts in this area were frozen at the Russian initiative.

London has accused Russia of intimidation after the British Council reluctantly agreed to suspend operations in St Petersburg and Yekaterinburg.

The British Council said it acted after some staff were allegedly questioned by the FSB.

Mr Brenton expressed hope that Russia will admit that its actions in relation to the British Council had been erroneous after which the offices will be able to resume work in Russian regions.

''I hope against hope that Russia will admit the fact of its obvious error officially,'' he said, adding,''We are ready to study any proposals from the Russian Foreign Ministry on how the British Council could continue its work in Russia.'' Meanwhile, an anonymous diplomatic source told Interfax news agency today that the issue surrounding regional offices of the British Council will be settled if Britain revises its decisions on halting the work on a visa relaxation regime agreement with Russia and suspending contacts with the FSB.

''It is a well known fact that London's unfriendly moves, including decisions to freeze the work on a visa agreement and to give up contacts with the FSB, interrupted the work on a Russian-British agreement on cultural and information centres,'' he said. UNI XC SKB AS1739

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