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    RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTER SUGGESTS NATO RECONSIDER PRACTICE OF NATO-ONLY OPERATIONS

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    MUNICH, February 7 (RIA Novosti correspondent Alexei Berezin) - To expand Russia-NATO cooperation, it would be desirable if the alliance reconsidered its practice of conducting major operations solely on the basis of own forces.

    Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov made this statement on Saturday at the 40th international Security Conference in Munich where he delivered a report called "Issues of International Security in the Context of Russia-NATO Relations." "At present, NATO is conducting a number of operations of global significance. I primarily refer in this respect to its operation aimed at stabilizing the situation in Afghanistan. I understand how complex this operation is. However, NATO should not reduce its mission solely to suppressing the remaining Taliban resistance and setting up a legitimate political system in the country," Sergei Ivanov said.

    He underscored that "the mission of all countries involved in the ongoing operation in Afghanistan must envisage efforts aimed at setting up conditions precluding a possibility of threats to other countries from Afghan territory in the future." According to Ivanov, in the years the current operation in Afghanistan has been under way, that country has again become the main source of narcotics which are distributed by traffickers via CIS republics and Russia into Western Europe.

    It is understood, Ivanov added, that NATO's lenience toward the narcotics business in Afghanistan lets the alliance win loyalty of powerful local field commanders as well as some of the Afghan senior officials. "Yet, the current volumes of drug trafficking have already posed serious threat to the national security of Russia and some republics of Central Asia. This became possible due to the lack of a truly international approach toward the stabilization activities in Afghanistan," the Russian minister said.

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