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In Tit-for-Tat Move, Russia Expels Senior U.S. Diplomat

By Sonni Efron
Los Angeles Times
MOSCOW

In Russia's first diplomatic tiff with Washington since the Cold War's end, Moscow expelled a senior American diplomat Monday in retaliation for last week's ouster of a Russian envoy to the United States.

The Russian Foreign Ministry identified diplomat James L. Morris, listed as a counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, as the CIA station chief here.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Grigory Karasin expressed regret over the incident but said Moscow was "forced" to respond to the "unjust" expulsion Friday of Alexander I. Lysenko, the suspected Russian intelligence chief in Washington, in connection with the Ames espionage affair. CIA official Aldrich H. Ames and his wife have been arrested on charges of spying for Moscow since 1985.

Morris is the first American to be declared persona non grata since Lt. Col. Daniel Francis Van Gundy III, an assistant military attache, was accused of espionage on March 15, 1989, and given 48 hours to leave the Soviet Union. The United States retaliated by expelling Sergei Malinin, a Soviet trade representative in New York.

In a similar tit-for-tat, Morris will be given seven days to leave the country, the same grace period the Clinton administration extended to Lysenko.

Although Lysenko arrived in Washington only last summer, the United States decided to expel him because "he was in a position to be responsible for the activities associated with the Ames case," State Department spokesman Mike McCurry said Friday.

The vague linkage irritated Russian officials, who suggested again that Washington has overreacted to the Ames case.

"To expel an officer who was officially recognized and not a covert agent goes beyond the boundaries and really calls for countermeasures," Foreign Minister Andrei V. Kozyrev said Sunday.

In a closed briefing for Russian reporters, Yevgeny M. Primakov, head of the Federal Intelligence Service, the agency that conducts foreign espionage, said he is baffled by the fuss Washington has made over the Ames case.

Primakov suggested that the administration was using the Ames arrest to score domestic political points, to punish Russia for its independent stance on the conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina and to provide a convenient excuse for cutting American aid to Russia.