RUSSIA, FRANCE WORK ON AGREEMENT TO TRANSIT MILITARY CARGOES TO AFGHANISTAN

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MOSCOW, March 30, 2004. (RIA Novosti) - Russia and France are working on an agreement to transit military cargoes to Afghanistan.

"We have agreed on the transit of military cargoes to Afghanistan with Germany and are conducting similar talks with France," President Vladimir Putin said at a government session Monday.

"The agreement is almost complete. We have met understanding in the [State Duma] committees and are ready to continue work with deputies [of the lower chamber]", Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at the session.

On Wednesday Berlin will host a conference on Afghanistan, he said. "The conference aims at preventing the process of Afghan settlement from being stalled and making it develop within the framework of agreements reached in the UN Security Council," Mr. Lavrov pointed out.

"We have to make sure that the nest of terrorism in Afghanistan has been eradicated, that there is stability on our southern borders, including with regard to drug trafficking," the minister said.

The Russian-German intergovernmental Agreement on transit of military property and personnel via the territory of the Russian Federation was signed in Yekaterinburg on October 9, 2003. The first German military transport plane flew across the Russian airspace on February 3rd.

Transit flights of German military planes involved in the UN peacekeeping operation in Afghanistan are carried out in compliance with the one-year general permit of the Russian State Customs Committee for transit of weapons, military equipment and military property of the Bundeswehr via the Russian territory.

The agreement with Germany is based on international legislation and practice in the sphere, on Russian legislation and duly respects the interests of the country's security, the Russian Foreign Ministry points out. For example, the Russian party has a right to deny a transit if it is established that movement of cargoes or personnel may pose a threat to the security of the Russian Federation.

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