UPDATE 1-Russia says U.S. rights law "odious" but wants constructive ties

Wed Jan 23, 2013 3:47am EST

MOSCOW Jan 23 (Reuters) - Russia wants constructive relations with the United States despite disputes over U.S. legislation designed to punish Russian human rights abusers and other difficulties in ties, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday.

Lavrov spoke during an annual news conference after a year during which relations between the former Cold War foes have deteriorated following improvements under U.S. President Barack Obama's "reset" policy.

A major irritant has been the Magnitsky Act, a law signed by Obama last month that denies visas to Russians accused of human rights violations and freezes their assets in the United States.

Russia President Vladimir Putin has responded by signing a law that imposes similar measures on Americans it says have abused the rights of Russians and also bans adoptions of Russian orphans by Americans, further increasing tension.

Lavrov called the Magnitsky Act "odious" and also criticised a U.S. judge's recent ruling in a dispute over a collection of Jewish writings held in Russia. He also said the sides remain at odds over U.S. plans for a anti-missile shield in Europe.

However, he said, "We are interested in constructive dialogue and the development of stable, mutually beneficial cooperation, particularly in the area of investment, in trade and economic relations and in contacts between people."

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