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Estonian Takes Rotating Presidency of Council of Europe

Strasbourg, May 3 (RFE/RL) - Estonian Foreign Minister Siim Kallas today assumed the rotating presidency of the Council of Europe.

Kallas told ministers from member countries in the Council that the Estonian government intends to secure the ratification of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities.

The pledge apparently was in response to Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov's call yesterday for the Council to take steps to defend the rights of Russian-speakers outside Russia, especially in the Baltic states.

Kallas today said that as the former head of the Bank of Estonia, he was "personally interested" in the European Convention on Money-laundering. He said it is important that central and eastern European countries "do not lend themselves unwittingly to doubtful or illegal financial transactions."

Kallas also said Estonia wants to promote Council dialogue with Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan to help promote democracy in the Caucasus. He said "while talk about accession is premature, we should encourage the greatest possible assistance to these countries. "

Kallas will will remain in the presidency until November.