Lieberman backs up comments on Russia vote

FM insists Russian elections legitimate, "represent mood of the country"; downplays fact that his position differs from that of US.

Lieberman Putin 311 R (photo credit: REUTERS/Alexsey Druginyn)
Lieberman Putin 311 R
(photo credit: REUTERS/Alexsey Druginyn)
The recent Russian elections do reflect the political reality in that country, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Monday, backing up controversial statements he made last week in Moscow saying the elections were legitimate.
“The results reflect the mood of the country,” Lieberman said at a press conference, adding that he is not saying there were not local problems in certain individual polling places, but that there are “problems in elections” everywhere, including in Israel and the US.
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Tens of thousands of Russians have taken to the streets to protest last week’s parliamentary elections won by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s party, and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said the elections were rigged.
Lieberman, who met with Putin last week in Moscow just after the elections, said he was worried about the alternatives to Putin, namely the communists.
Part of those taking part in the demonstrations against Putin “are not our friends,” he said.
Russia, Lieberman said, did not exactly have the democratic traditions of “Switzerland or England,” but has made great strides toward democracy. As evidence, he said Putin and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev are regularly criticized, and that permits are given for protests. Lieberman said that polls, including those taken by foreign embassies in Moscow before the election, showed similar results to those that came from the actual voting.
The foreign minister said there were major differences between Israel and Russia over key issues, such as how to deal with Syria, how to deal with Iran and Moscow’s support for Palestinian unilateralism at the UN, but that it was possible to have a dialogue with the Russians about these issues.
He said Russia’s Mideast policy was guided more by its relationship with the US than by anything else.
Turning to Syria, Lieberman said that it was “only a matter of time” before Syrian President Bashar Assad was brought down, and that Israel was worried about would come afterward.
On other issues, the foreign minister termed as legitimate the “muezzin bill,” proposed by his party colleague Anastasia Michaeli (Israel Beiteinu), which would reduce the volume of the Muslim call to prayer. He said that there were precedents for this type of legislation in the western world, such as the Swiss ordinance against mosque minarets and the French law outlawing the burka.