Russia expels US official

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MEMORIES of the Cold War were revived yesterday when Moscow expelled an American embassy official in retaliation for the US having ordered a Russian out of Washington after it discovered a suspected Kremlin mole deep in the CIA. The Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Grigory Karasin, said James Morris had been declared persona non grata and given seven days to leave Moscow 'on the basis of reciprocity' since the Americans had expelled Alexander Lysenko last Friday. Mr Lysenko was Moscow's 'official spy' in Washington under a new agreement whereby the superpowers identified their intelligence chiefs in each other's capitals. US officials said the man leaving Moscow was the CIA's station head here but they did not name him.

In Washington, President Bill Clinton's spokeswoman, Dee Dee Myers, said that America regretted Moscow's move 'because we are the aggrieved party in this' but added that the US had no plans to throw out any more Russians. The expulsion of the American came as no surprise because Russia, which does not like to lose face, always answers tit-for-tat, even when it is in the wrong.

The row erupted last week after the FBI arrested Aldrich Ames, a former head of the CIA's Soviet counter-intelligence department, and charged him with selling US secrets to Moscow.

Russian commentators accused the Americans of hypocrisy, saying they also had their spies in the former Soviet Union. President Clinton had almost certainly known about Mr Ames when he came to Moscow for a summit with President Boris Yeltsin in January but had only chosen to make an issue of it now that other matters were also troubling US-Russians relations, they said.

Both Washington and Moscow are trying to limit the damage caused by the spying row. The Russian Foreign Minister, Andrei Kozyrev, has said the Ames affair should not be blown up out of proportion. Nevertheless, East-West relations are now more uncertain than they have been since the late 1980s.