Commenting on Russia's parliament, Gorbachev, said: "I cannot say that it is independent [and] also our judiciary does not fully comply with the provisions of the constitution."

'Hard lesson'

But the former president, who was 78 on Monday, said that the global economic crisis, which has hit Russia hard, was proof that capitalism should be moderated by elements of socialism.

He said: "It is necessary to overcome these mistakes of super-consumerism, of super-profits.

"We have to think about finding - through the G20 or other institutions - new models of development [and] co-operation."

Gorbachev said that a successful economic system would include both the competitiveness of capitalism and the "social safety net" of socialism.

He said that the US had suffered a "disease of extreme self-confidence" after victory in the Cold War that had led it to believe "that things would always go on this way".

"And it did last long," he said, "I think that now everyone is learning a hard lesson".

US-Russia relations

Addressing US-Russia relations, Gorbachev said the time was right for strengthening ties between the two nations.

His comments came as Nato agreed to restore top-level talks with Moscow, after they were suspended following last year's conflict between Russia and Georgia.

The new US administration is seeking co-operation with Russia over Afghanistan [AFP]
The US administration has also signalled it intends to boost ties with Russia, after relations deteriorated under the administration of George Bush, the former US president.

In particular, Washington is seeking co-operation with Russia over its mission in Afghanistan and to help it to stop Iran's nuclear progress.

Gorbachev said the world community should head off the prospect of Iranian nuclear arms with "a maximal dialogue", instead of confrontation.

"Let [Iran] integrate itself into the global community, build normal relations,'' he said.

Fall of communism

The last leader of the Soviet Union, forced to step down on December 25 1991, following the collapse of communism, revealed that he had sought to fix the regime, not facilitate its downfall.

"I was a resolute opponent of the breakup of the union,'' Gorbachev said.

"Personally, as a politician, I lost. But the idea that I conveyed and the project that I carried out, it played a huge role in the world and the country," he said.

"But now the situation is such that more and more people are starting to understand what Gorbachev did."

"But anyway, we have gone far, and there's no return."