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U.S. To Raise Concerns Over Russian NGO Law

RIA Novosti

January 19, 2006

The United States' government is to continue voicing concerns over controversial Russian government policies, in spite of Russia's inaugural presidency of the Group of Eight leading industrialized nations, a senior U.S. State Department official said in a radio interview Thursday.

Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Barry Lowenkron, currently on a visit to Moscow, told the Ekho Moskvy radio station that the U.S. government was particularly worried about the newly-passed Russian law on the operations of foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the country.

The law - intended to prevent politically motivated groups from running organizations under the banner of an NGO - has provoked fears that genuine NGOs could find themselves restricted in their work.

The U.S. welcomed Russia's presidency of the G8 in the first half of 2006, Lowenkron said. Russian democracy still had a long way to go, he said, but was making progress, with some 500,000 NGOs still operating in the country and the government's policies open to public debate.

Russia's G8 presidency has come in for criticism from some quarters in the U.S., however. Republican Senator John McCain, for instance, has criticized the country's record on human rights and free speech, arguing that it should not even be a member of the G8.

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