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    RUSSIA'S DEFENCE MINISTER OPTIMISTIC ON CONTACTS WITH NATO: "NO ISOLATION" (UPDATE)

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    MUNICH, February 8, 2004. (RIA Novosti) - Russia does not in the least feel victim of isolation, especially where its contacts with NATO are concerned, Sergei Ivanov, Defence Minister, reassured a news conference in Munich.

    To prove his point, he highlighted more than twenty recent joint events in NATO countries. This year will see even more, in particular, several major bilateral war games. Russia is determined for ever closer contacts in that respect with the "interested coalition", added the minister.

    "All that became possible largely thanks to Lord George Robertson, previous NATO Secretary General. I know him very well. We met several dozen times-and I have never saw even the slightest trace of old cliches in his mentality.

    "More than that, we shall work together to improve the legal basis of our partnership. We expect to settle many issues with legal understandings-in particular, the status of Russia-NATO forces, an agreement on troops operation compatibility, and the same for liaison and arsenals.

    "Russia is permanent member of an overwhelming majority of NATO committees. All this partnerly work proceeds from shared interests."

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