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    MOSCOW, March 2, 2004. (RIA Novosti correspondent) - Relations between Russia and Portugal are developing steadily and positively, Russian acting Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said at a meeting with his Portuguese counterpart Paulo Portas.

    "I believe that military cooperation contributes to strengthening trust and understanding both between our armies and fleets and between our citizens," Mr. Ivanov said. "The relations are developing steadily, positively and this is good. Geographically, Russia and Portugal may be situated rather far from each other, but in the Russia-NATO Council we are neighbors and this gives a certain coloring to our relations." This, however, "does not mean that we should not think about the future, about development of Russia's relations both with Portugal and with NATO and the EU," he emphasized.

    "We already discussed these problems during the tete-a-tete meeting, and we also touched upon the fight against international terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction," Ivanov said.

    "As we can see, the world is changing swiftly, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. We have to react adequately to international developments, and I am glad to see that we share the opinion on how to react from the point of view of international security," he pointed out.

    Portuguese Minister of State and Defense Paulo Portas in his turn underlined that Russia and Portugal had a long history of relations, and their diplomatic relations were already about 235 years old.

    Russia is Portugal's neighbor not only in the Russia-NATO Council, but also in the same qualifying group for the World Soccer Championship, he recalled. In this connection Portas invited Ivanov to the match of the two national teams.

    Also, the two countries' cooperation in the defense sphere has been developing intensively, he pointed out. "In 2003 we undertook significant efforts to prevent incidents at sea, which became a sign of cooperation between our fleets," the Portuguese minister said.

    Apart from this, he pointed to the vital importance of rapprochement between Russian and Portugal and NATO and the EU in order to fight against terrorism, to decrease the threat of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and to strengthen stability in the world.

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