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Russia backs US right to kill bin Laden

Russia on Wednesday backed the United States’ right to hunt down and kill Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden as its leaders prepared to holds talks with visiting Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari.

Islamabad has come under strong pressure from Washington to explain how bin Laden managed to hide inside Pakistan for years despite the country’s averred commitment to the fight against terrorism.

Zardari convened an emergency meeting to address the crisis in relations on Monday and used a Washington Post editorial to defend his government against criticism that it failed to do enough to hunt down the world’s biggest terror suspect.

But Russia Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov indicated in an interview released Wednesday that Moscow fully supported Washington’s position and did not question its right to strike inside Pakistan.

Russia congratulated the United States moments after the successful raid was announced and Lavrov stressed that Moscow had no qualms about the fact that bin Laden had been killed without being put on trial.

“Our position is very simple,” RIA Novosti quoted Lavrov as telling the Moskovskie Novosti paper in an interview due to be published Thursday.

“After September 11, 2001, the Security Council adopted a resolution recognising the United States right to self-defence,” Lavrov said.

“That right does not presume any limits,” Russia’s top diplomat added.

Russia’s parliament in 2006 approved legislation authorising military strikes against suspected terrorists hiding abroad and analysts note that the bin Laden operation suited the country’s own security interests.

The Kremlin has linked Al-Qaeda to the rebels fighting government troops in the mostly Muslim North Caucasus region and President Dmitry Medvedev underscored those ties on Wednesday.

“It is no secret that the Al-Qaeda terror network has regularly been and continues to send its emissaries” to Russia, Medvedev said in televised remarks.

He is due to meet Zardari on Thursday in the Pakistani leader’s face-to-face talks with a world leader since the US raid.

Yet Russia’s official backing of the operation has been accompanied by questions in the Russian state media about why bin Laden had been killed even though he was unarmed.

Some in the media have further asked why Washington decided not to publish photographs of bin Laden’s body and instead buried the Al-Qaeda leader at sea.

Yet Lavrov stressed that Russia did not have any serious qualms about the Al-Qaeda chief’s death.

“I would avoid going into the legalese of this issue,” said Lavorv.

“No one in the world has any doubts that bin Laden is the person behind the horrific act of terror of September 11 and an entire series of other terrorist acts,” he said.

“The US side is ready to offer its explanation (of what happened), and we will wait.”