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    RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTER: EXPANDED NATO OPERATES IN THE AREA OF RUSSIA'S VITAL INTERESTS

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    MUNICH, February 7 (RIA Novosti correspondent Alexei Berezin) - Expansion of NATO has brought this alliance's activities into the area of Russia's vital interests, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said at the 40th international Munich Conference on Security where he made a report called "Issues of International Security in the Context of Russia-NATO relations." "I would like to remind all NATO representatives that NATO expansion has brought the alliance's operations into the area of our country's vital interests and, therefore, NATO should in deed not just in word take due account of our concerns regarding both political and security matters if only NATO's intention to establish partnership with Russia is sincere," Sergei Ivanov said.

    He stressed that the new reality requires that not only Russia but NATO as well should take additional steps to ensure greater transparency.

    "We are told, for example, that the NATO infrastructure currently being established in East European countries has the primary aim of providing the possibility for the alliance to ensure effective contribution to the fight against terror. I am prepared to agree that some facilities in Bulgaria or Romania can be used as stopover bases for operations in the Middle East. Yet, if such is the case, I ask NATO representatives to explain to me what regions of the anti-terror effort they had on their minds when planning establishment of NATO's military infrastructure in Poland or the Baltic countries," the Minister pointed out.

    According to him, it would be worthwhile considering a possibility of letting Russian military experts into the newly established facilities for constant monitoring of all activities there to make sure that the latter harbor "no threat for Russia's security." The Minister emphasized that Russia was not going to interfere with NATO's policy regarding expansion of its membership, but "we have rights arising from our participation in the OSCE and we intend to use those."

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