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    MOSCOW, March 3, 2004. (RIA Novosti) Russia is worried over the process of early accession of new states to NATO, Sergei Ivanov, acting defense minister of Russia, stated in the wake of his meeting with his Portuguese counterpart Paulo Portas on Tuesday.

    Russia is not a member of NATO, but I cannot pretend to be not interested in and concerned over this problem, Ivanov said. This theme is being discussed all the time during the last five years and what matters here is the understanding by the parties of the fact that the process of NATO's expansion should not lead to new confrontational and dividing lines, moreover that the challenges of the 21st century for Russia and the countries of the North Atlantic Alliance have another origin and are in other regions.

    That is why Russia and NATO do not pose a threat to each other, the head of the Russian Defense Ministry said.

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