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    NATO BOSS APPROVES LATVIAN ETHNIC POLICIES AS THOSE IN LINE WITH OSCE STANDARDS

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    RIGA, MARCH 12 (RIA Novosti) - NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer claims in his Friday interview to the Latvijas Avize newspaper that once a member of the Alliance, Latvia will see its relations with Russia changed as all troublesome issues will be handled by the NATO-Russia Council.

    The Council where Latvia will put up its painful questions is a serious platform for discussions, he said.

    Mention was however made that the Council is not authorized to tackle such questions as, for instance, education reform and proportion of foreign languages on school curriculum (the Latvian parliament recently upheld a law drastically reducing the number of hours for Russian-language tuition at schools for ethnic minorities).

    This is Latvia's internal policy and I hope it will be flexible enough, said Scheffer. All Latvian laws concerning ethnic minorities and languages correspond to OSCE standards, according to him. Therefore there is no reason criticizing them, he said.

    NATO's chief aim, continued Scheffer, is to guarantee territorial integrity of the Alliance members.

    In a very short while, the Alliance will number 26 sovereign states, which means that territorial integrity will be guaranteed to Latvia to the same extent as to Belgium, the Netherlands, the USA and other countries, said the NATO secretary general. He made a remark that NATO would not distinguish between states of grade A and grade B - the Alliance is a uniform community with a uniform territory.

    He praised Latvia's peacekeeping operations on the Balkans and in Afghanistan.

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