Sat, Aug 18, 2007 - Page 6 News List

Russia blocks UN statement on missile case

AP , UNITED NATIONS

Russia blocked a US attempt to have the UN Security Council issue a statement on last week's incident involving an unidentified aircraft flying over Georgian air space and dropping a missile near a village, calling it "premature."

Russia's UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said the council should not take a stand since a high-level Russian military delegation had just arrived in the Georgian capital, Tblisi, for talks with Georgian experts on the incident.

"We are looking forward to serious and constructive and substantive discussions with the Georgian experts of this incident," he said Thursday. "It would be premature for the council to take any kind of stand on this matter."

US Deputy Ambassador Jackie Sanders said "the United States deplores this attack" and supports Georgia's call for an emergency meeting of the council.

"We thought it was really important that the Security Council make a statement on this issue," she said. "Russia was not prepared today to have a formal statement or press statement. This is an ongoing situation. We intend to pursue it."

Georgia accused Russia last week of "an act of aggression," saying it has "incontrovertible evidence" that Russian jets launched a missile near the breakaway region of South Ossetia.

Russia's air force has flatly denied that its planes crossed into Georgia's air space.

But on Wednesday a group of eight international military experts determined that the plane, which flew over Georgian territory on Aug. 6, had come from Russian air space, releasing the missile on the final flight.

The experts, who included a Latvian air traffic controller, two Swedish defense experts and US analysts, did not identify the aircraft, but agreed with Georgian conclusions that the missile that landed was a Russian-made, anti-radar Raduga Kh-58.

Churkin appeared to dismiss this and other investigations, saying "the Georgian side has gone out of its way to create all sorts of noise around it, and as a result of it all there is a lot of conflicting information, a lot of conflicting evidence and assertions surrounding this incident."

"But from the outset we have been saying what is required is a thorough professional discussion and investigation between Russian and Georgian experts," he said.

Churkin said Moscow hoped that Georgia would create "proper conditions" for a serious discussion with the Russian delegation, which includes air force chief of staff Lieutenant-General Igor Khvorov and senior officials from the defense and foreign ministries.

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