NATO IS NOT RUSSIA'S RIVAL IN TAJIKISTAN - ALLIANCE'S SECRETARY GENERAL

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DUSHANBE, October 20 (RIA Novosti) - NATO is not Russia's rival in Tajikistan and the government of the Republic of Tajikistan has the full-fledged sovereign right to invite any state to deploy a military base on its territory, NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer told reporters following a meeting with Tajikistan's President Emomali Rakhmonov in Dushanbe on Wednesday.

According to Mr. Scheffer, "the Russian military presence in Tajikistan will not impair the cooperation of Tajikistan and NATO". "We respect the decision of Tajikistan on deploying a Russian military base, but I do not think that NATO will closely work with Russian military in the Republic of Tajikistan", said the secretary general of the North Atlantic Alliance.

At the ceremony of opening the Russian base in Tajikistan on October 17 Vladimir Putin said: "The Russian military base in Tajikistan together with the air base in Kanta (Kirghizia) will become a reliable link of the unified collective security system in the region, whose main mission will be to promote conditions for neutralizing terrorist and extremist attacks and to assist in combating drug trafficking and organized crime".

The president pointed out that the agreement on the status and terms of the Russian military base deployment on the territory of Tajikistan had been legally finalized.

"The Russian military presence here has received an international legal basis", said Mr. Putin. He pointed out that the military base accommodated well-trained units. "Russia is familiar with the glorious 201st division. It is a real combat unit, which has many times stood on the forward edge and played a role of a very important military political instrument for maintaining stability and security in the region and a barrier for drug trafficking and organized crime", said the Russian president.

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