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    FRENCH DEFENSE MINISTER: RUSSIA REMAINS LEADING INTERNATIONAL PARTNER OF FRANCE AND EUROPE

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    PARIS, 6 March. (RIA Novosti correspondent Andrei Nizamutdinov). 'Russia is a leading international partner for France and Europe' French defense minister Michelle Alliot-Marie stated in a interview to RIA Novosti.

    While commenting on the recent working visit to France of Sergei Ivanov, acting Russian Defense minister Alliot-Marie pointed out that during the negotiations "the parties considered issues of mutual interest including cooperation in the military sphere and armaments, as well as exchanged opinions on the international situation".

    This exchange was followed-up at the third meeting of the Russian-French Security cooperation Council that was attended by defense and foreign ministers of the two states.

    In the opinion of Alliot-Marie, the work of the council permits Paris and Moscow to wage a "intense and comprehensive dialogue on international issues." The dialogue in its turn "allowed ministers in the course of the last two years to establish personal relations which facilitated efficient mutual understanding of each side's positions".

    The French minister stated that she presented her counterparts "with new important initiatives in the area of European defense and security". Alliot-Marie declared that "taking into account that specific and irreversible character of that policy it was necessary to be actively engaged in a more intensive dialogue on security and defense issues with Russia which remained the major international partner for France and Europe."

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