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Rene van der Linden (file photo) (RFE/RL) January 22, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- The president of the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly, Rene van der Linden, today called for more funds to run the human rights watchdog.

Speaking in Strasbourg, van der Linden warned that the Council of Europe faces a slow death if its 46 member countries are unwilling to pay more.

In other matters, van der Linden said Russia had taken the first steps in repairing relations with Georgia because of pressure from the Parliamentary Assembly.

"In my meetings in Moscow, I urged the Russian authorities to make the first, concrete, positive steps to bring down the conflicts between Georgia and Russia and, especially, to create an atmosphere to re-establish good neighborship," he said.

Russia's ambassador to Georgia was due to return to his post today, nearly four months after leaving Tbilisi amid a dispute between the two countries.

Commenting on his trip to Belarus on January 18-19, van der Linden said he believes the recent Russian-Belarusian energy dispute resulted in Minsk being "more open for a discussion on joining the European family."

Van der Linden was unanimously reelected president of the council today for another one-year term.

(with agency reports)
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