Russia calls for date for withdrawal of troops from Iraq

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Moscow, Jan 23 (UNI) Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov today called for setting a date for the withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq in order to stabilise the situation in the country and condemned Israel's moves to block Gaza.

''We understand the position taken by the Iraqi government that without foreign troops they cannot resolve security problems.

However, we still think that it would be right to set some approximate timetable for pulling out the troops,'' he said at a press conference here.

''This could somehow calm the situation down,'' Mr Lavrov said, noting that ''the national reconciliation'' in Iraq was the key to solving the current conflict.

He added more ''decisive steps'' were needed for the establishment of national unity and putting an end to feuds.

''This can be only done through the political process,'' the Minister stressed.

Last December, the UN Security Council approved a draft resolution extending the mandate of the US-led multinational force in Iraq by another year.

The resolution states that troops can only be withdrawn earlier than this if the Iraqi authorities made a request to the UN.

Mr Lavrov also said Russia condemned Israel's moves to block vital fuel and food supplies to the Gaza Strip.

A decision to impose a blockade was taken following almost daily rocket attacks from the enclave on Israeli border regions.

''We condemn attempts to blockade the strip, which will bring nothing but new suffering to the already impoverished residents of Gaza,'' he said.

He also denounced rocket attacks on Israel, describing them as ''disproportionate retaliatory measures.'' He said Russia favoured the restoration of Palestinian unity, which should be recognised by the entire international community, including Israel.

''We favour the restoration of Palestinian unity on the basis of agreements reached through the mediation of the Saudi King last year and on the basis of the Arab Peace Initiative,'' Mr Lavrov said.

UNI XC SKB VC2016

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