Russia's ties with Latin America not targeted at third countries'

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Moscow, Nov 17 (UNI) Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov today denied that Moscow's growing ties with the Latin American countries targeted third countries.

Lavrov's denial came as he today embarked on his visit to Latin American countries, including his first official trips to Colombia and Ecuador.

He is scheduled to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) ministerial meeting in Lima, Peru on November 19-20.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev will take part in the November 22-23 APEC summit in Lima. He is also scheduled to pay official visits to Brazil, Venezuela and Cuba.

He dismissed as ''absolutely untrue'' speculation on the part of some observers that Russia was driven to boost contacts with Latin America by a diplomatic tug-of-war with the United States.

''Disapproval of attempts to impose unilateral approaches, readiness to respect partners' interests not in word but in deed, to honour the principle of non-interference in sovereign nations' affairs, and to choose crisis and conflict settlement through talks has brought Russia closer to Latin America,'' Lavrov told mediapersons.

He said most Latin American countries had denounced Georgia's August 8 attack as aggression and condemned US policy in the Caucasus, supporting Moscow's efforts to force Tbilisi to peace.

Nicaragua is so far the only country in the world to follow Russia by recognising Georgia's breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent.

Lavrov also said Russia sold only defensive weapons to Latin America, honouring all its international commitments.

''The weaponry we supply is not offensive.These are purely defensive means in their technical specifications,'' he said, adding Russia was honouring all its international commitments as part of its ''transparent'' cooperation in the military sphere.

UNI XC ARB PK BST1753

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