Russia wants to restore full cooperation with Britain: Medvedev

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Moscow, Mar 25 (UNI) Ahead of his formal inauguration, President-elect Dmitry Medvedev has said Russia wants to restore full cooperation with Britain.

''We are quite capable of restoring the entire volume of full-fledged bilateral cooperation. Of course without preliminary conditions in the understanding of independence of positions of each other,'' Mr Medvedev said in an interview to The Financial Times published today.

''We are open for restoring cooperation in full,'' he stressed, referring to the recent plunging of bilateral ties since the murder of the former KGB agent and London-based Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko in 2006 and Russia's refusal to extradite Andrei Lugovoi, the main accused involved in poisoning him.

Mr Medvedev added ''time would tell'' whether progress was possible when he meets British Prime Minister Gordon Brown for the first time, probably at G-8 summit in July in Japan.

Britain introduced visa and cooperation restrictions for Russian officials in July last year in the wake of the extradition dispute, with Moscow reciprocating.

Bilateral ties were further strained by the closure of British Council offices in St Petersburg and Yekaterinburg for alleged tax and status violations early this year.

Mr Medvedev told the newspaper the closure of the British Council offices was not very surprising.

''Frankly speaking, I am not surprised much, since such type of centres are traditionally used for gleaning intelligence information,'' he noted.

''I am not the head of secret services, nevertheless, information, regularly printed by the press and reports I receive as a leader of the state, show that there are problems in this sphere,'' he said, replying to a question on the operation of branches of the British Council in Russia.

He also dismissed suggestions that recent raid on TNK-BP, the Russian-British petroleum group, and industrial espionage charges against one of its employees, and a member of the British Alumni Club with links to the British Council and Embassy, were attempts to sabotage efforts to improve ties.

''I would like the final decision to be taken by a court and not by the judgment of analysts or politicians,'' he said.

The Russian president-elect expressed support for improving relations with Britain.

''We have very good economic relations, just spectacular,'' he said, adding the British investments in Russia jumped up 270 per cent over the past year, totalling about 26 billion dollars.

''Therefore, there are no economic barriers for economic development. They are the most vigorous evidently over the entire period of Russian-British relations,'' he said stressing, ''But bilateral political contacts are now considerably curbed.'' UNI XC RJ ND1646

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