BELARUS, RUSSIA TO BUTTRESS JOINT ARMED FORCE: LUKASHENKO

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BORISOV, BELARUS, October 3 (RIA Novosti) - Belarus and Russia are determined to strengthen their joint armed contingent, President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus said to the media, yesterday, during a Motherland Shield 2004 military exercise, underway in his country.

"Not only Belarus but Russia-at last-has come up with very impressive initiatives to build up the Belarussian-Russian joint contingent," he said. That will concern all aspects of the effort-from building up all arms and services to updating arsenals. "Blueprints are already available."

The Belarussian Army will make the contingent kernel, to be reinforced by Russians in case of a conflict. The Belarussian Army is battle-ready and "at an extremely high level", reassured the President.

As for his country's contribution to the Collective Security Treaty Organisation, which includes Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan, Mr. Lukashenko had the following to say:

"First, some people are out to make a good thing out of Belarus or Russia. We are showing them all that we are not all on our own." Then, Belarus has it for top priority to preserve its unity with Russia, that is to base on the joint contingent.

"We have been invited to join the Collective Security Treaty Organisation, and we are honestly coping with our duties on it. We are Organisation members. That's what matters. We have an organisation which other countries, presently outside it, may join if necessary."

President Lukashenko deems it necessary for Belarus and Russia to revive the military-industrial complex of the Soviet years.

"That will be a much easier job if Russia consents to it. If not, we shall have to update many things singlehanded," he remarked.

"Belarus is to finish modernising the arsenals of all its military units, big and small, within the next five years," added the President.

With that aim in view, Belarus has established a Military-Industrial Committee, which subordinates all military-oriented industrial companies. "We have by now learned to update everything, be it helicopters, planes or armoured vehicles, and it costs us less than buying new arsenals."

As for a structural Belarussian army reform, it is as good as finished now, said the President.

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