Britain: Russia damaging its world standing in new diplomatic dispute

Russia's decision to close down branches of a British cultural organization and suspend participation in a key arms control treaty threaten to damage Moscow's global standing, Britain's foreign secretary said Thursday. David Miliband said plans to force the closure of British Council offices in St. Petersburg and Yekaterinburg will erode already tense relations between London and the Kremlin. Closing the offices would "constitute a serious attack against the legitimate cultural agent of the British government, would show a disregard for the rule of law and would only damage Russia's reputation around the world," Miliband said in a statement. Russian officials accuse the British Council, a non-governmental organization that acts as the cultural department of the British Embassy, of operating illegally in the two cities.