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    NATO SPY PLANE AWAKS TO FLY ABOVE BALTIC STATES IN ABSENCE OF RUSSIAN OBSERVER

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    RIGA, MOSCOW, February 23, 2004. (RIA Novosti) - E-3 AWAKS NATO spy plane arrives in Latvia on Monday, the Latvian Defence Ministry reported.

    The ministry's report says that the arrival of the plane "has been coordinated and will take place within the framework of cooperation with NATO." "The crew of the plane will acquaint the air defence command and representatives of the Latvian military aviation with the possibilities and the technologies of the plane" and also "will check its compatibility with the unified air space control system of the Baltic States (BALTNET)," the report says.

    It is planned that the spy-plane will fly above the Baltic States. However, it is pointed out that "during this flight the plane's radar system will not function at its full capacity." As RIA Novosti was told on Friday in the information and press department of the Russian Foreign Ministry, NATO's refusal to a Russian representative to observe the plane's flights causes regret.

    "Taking into consideration the sensitiveness of such kind of measures near our borders for the interests of Russia, we have sent in an official application beforehand for the participation of a Russian observer in these flights," a spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

    "In reply we were informed that the participation of a Russian observer was impossible. In saying this, the organisers refer to the objections of the host countries," the report of the information and press department says.

    "This fact cannot but cause regret because it contradicts the Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security between Russia and NATO," the spokesman underscored.

    "In accordance with this document, the Alliance countries have committed themselves to strive to raise transparency, predictability and mutual trust. We have the right to expect from Latvia and Estonia, which are entering NATO, that they share the principles, which determine the character of our partnership with the Alliance and will fulfil the whole complex of the agreements existing between Russia and NATO," the information and press department pointed out.

    The Latvian observers connect the arrival of the AWAKS plane with Latvia's preparation for a regular reception of NATO planes after the country's entry into the North Atlantic Alliance on a permanent basis.

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