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Russian General Claims Right To Preemptive Strikes

8 September 2004 -- Comments by a Russian military official suggesting that Moscow has a right to launch preemptive strikes against terrorist threats anywhere in the world met with cautious responses today.

The statements by the chief of the Russian General Staff, General Yurii Baluevskii, who said such options do not include the use of nuclear force, follow a wave of terrorist attacks in Russia in recent weeks -- the last of which was the bloody Beslan school siege in the southern republic of North Ossetia on 1-3 September.

"We will take any action to eliminate terrorist bases in any region at the earliest stage," Baluevskii said. "This does not mean we are going to carry out nuclear strikes. Our choice of action will be determined according to the situation."

NATO officials have declined to comment on the statement.

European Union spokeswoman Emma Udwin said she could not be sure the statement represented Russian government policy.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said Russia's stance was "understandable," while a French Foreign Ministry spokesman said the fight against international terrorism is "a priority for the entire international community."

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said no country "no matter how powerful" can combat terrorism with a one-sided approach.

There has been no official public reaction from Washington.

It is not the first time Russian officials have claimed the right to preemptive action.


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