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    MOSCOW'S REACTS COOLLY TO CELEBRATIONS IN THE BALTICS

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    MOSCOW, April 2, 2004 (RIA Novosti's Pyotr Goncharov) - Moscow's reaction to the celebrations in the Baltic States regarding their entry into NATO will be "quietly negative." Moscow regards the alliance's expansion as "a big strategic and political mistake," the Foreign Ministry told RIA Novosti.

    "The world has changed much more than NATO has changed," a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry said. "Today, Europe faces new challenges, while NATO, in many respects, possesses instruments of the Cold War. And the expansion of the North Atlantic alliance is no more than a response to 21st century challenges with 20th century means."

    "We perceive an alliance with strong and weak aspects and recognize its right to make a mistake," the spokesman said.

    At the same time, Russia does not hide its concern over the fact that the new NATO members have not joined the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty.

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated in Berlin that Moscow hopes that this concern would be resolved at a Russia-NATO Council session on April 2.

    "We have reason to believe that this problem will be settled at the Russia-NATO Council session," Mr. Lavrov said.

    According to him, Russia needs the commitments of these countries and the commitments of all NATO members that the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty will be ratified by everyone.

    The Baltic States intend to celebrate on Friday, April 2, the day of their official entry into NATO. Celebrations, gala receptions, concerts and ceremonies of raising the NATO flag will take place in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

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