Asia Crisis

Russia minister says he swore, but diplomatically

(Note strong language in paragraph 5)

MOSCOW, Sept 14 (Reuters) - Russia's foreign minister on Sunday acknowledged he used an expletive in a conversation with his British counterpart but said he was just repeating a colourful description he had heard of Georgia's president.

Britain's Telegraph newspaper reported this week that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had launched into a tirade when discussing last month's war in Georgia with British Foreign Secretary David Miliband.

Lavrov denied any such tirade, but said he struggled in their telephone conversation to convince Miliband that Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili had started the war, not Russia.

"In order to present Miliband with a different point of view, I had to tell him about a description of Saakashvili that our colleague from a European state gave in a conversation with me," Russia's Itar-Tass news agency quoted Lavrov as saying.

"That description went like this: 'Fucking lunatic'," the news agency quoted Lavrov as telling Russian reporters. "And that was all there was to it.

Saakashvili, a U.S.-educated lawyer, angered Moscow by seeking to take his ex-Soviet state into NATO and trying to retake separatist South Ossetia. Georgian officials accuse Moscow of mounting a smear campaign against Saakashvili. (Writing by Christian Lowe; editing by Philippa Fletcher)