Russia said on Saturday it might under certain circumstances back a deployment of NATO troops in Albania to help contain the Kosovo crisis.
But in a newspaper interview, Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov reiterated Moscow's demand that no such action be undertaken without the authorization of the U.N. Security Council."Sometimes they (the West) say: `We do not want to raise this issue in the Security Council because Russia would block it all the same,' " Primakov told the liberal daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta.
"Our reaction in the Security Council will depend on whether the proposed measures would be relevant to the situation at that moment."
Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin said Moscow would want to be sure that any measures involving NATO troops in Albania were not "provocative."
"When it is a question of NATO forces and sending troops to Albania, we think a decision by the Security Council is needed because it is a matter involving a country which does not come under the North Atlantic alliance's auspices," he told Reuters by telephone.
NATO foreign ministers, meeting in Luxembourg on Thursday, approved measures aimed at fostering a peaceful solution to the crisis in Serbia's Kosovo province, which is mostly inhabited by ethnic Albanians.
The major powers fear the conflict between the Serbian authorities and Kosovo separatists could spill over into neighboring Albania or Macedonia, igniting a wider Balkan war.
The foreign ministers commissioned plans for possible preventive deployments of NATO forces in Albania which NATO sources said could involve 7,000 to 23,000 troops.
No decision on deployment was made at the Luxembourg meeting, which Primakov attended under a pact giving Russia a special relationship with NATO which was agreed last year as a compensation for the Western alliance's expansion eastwards.
Despite the deal, Russia remains suspicious about NATO's growing international role.