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Russia's Putin says regional revolts led to Algeria hostage

Russian President Vladimir Putin smiles during a ceremony, in which the diplomatic credentials of newly appointed ambassadors were accepted,
Russian President Vladimir Putin smiles during a ceremony, in which the diplomatic credentials of newly appointed ambassadors were accepted,

By Alexei Anishchuk

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that revolts in Syria and Libya had unleashed instability in the Middle East and Africa that had exacted a "tragic toll" in last week's militant attack on a gas plant in Algeria.

Putin and other Russian officials have said the United States and its NATO allies have sacrificed stability to their political ambitions in the Middle East and North Africa, often playing into the hands of radical Islamists.

Algerian militant leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar said his forces seized the In Amenas gas plant in the name in retaliation for France's offensive against his allies in neighboring Mali. At least 38 workers were killed as Algerian troops stormed the remote gas complex.

While Russia backed a U.N. Security Council resolution in December authorizing intervention to stop Mali falling to al Qaeda, it has blocked three resolutions on Syria and accused the West of over-stepping the mandate of a U.N. resolution on Libya that its abstention allowed to pass.

"The Syrian conflict has been raging for almost two years now. Upheaval in Libya, accompanied by the uncontrolled spread of weapons, contributed to the deterioration of the situation in Mali," Putin said.

"The tragic consequences of these events led to a terrorist attack in Algeria which took the lives of civilians, including foreigners," he told new foreign ambassadors who handed him their credentials in a Kremlin ceremony.

During his annual news conference on Wednesday, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said rebels fighting French and African troops in Mali were the same fighters the West armed in the revolt that ousted Gaddafi.

(Writing by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Jon Hemming)

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