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US wants more time to close USAID in Russia

22 september 2012, 13:45
Victoria Nuland. Photo courtesy of m24digital.com
Victoria Nuland. Photo courtesy of m24digital.com
The United States has asked Russia for more time to shutter the activities of USAID, after Moscow gave it less than three weeks to close down two-decade old programs, AFP reports citing a US official.

Washington has "asked for some time to wind down the mission, to conclude the programs that we have underway," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said, without giving details of how long the closure would take.

"As you can imagine, this doesn't just affect the American staff. There's a huge amount of Russian staff involved, so we have to unwind things there."

Moscow has already insisted it will stick by the October 1 deadline for the US Agency for International Development to halt its work, after accusing the agency of meddling in domestic politics, charges the US administration denies.

The Kommersant business daily reported US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrote to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, asking that the aid and development agency be allowed to continue its work until May 2013.

But Russian foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said Moscow stood by its position that "a decision has been taken and this decision of a sovereign state must be carried out."

"We're in a conversation with the Russian government about how much time we think it's going to take us to wind things down," Nuland noted, adding she did not want to go into details.

There are 13 Americans working for USAID in Russia and about 60 Russians. A senior US official said Washington had given Moscow its word that it would not sign any new contracts, but added we "have existing commitments to Russian organizations" that should be honored.

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