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    RUSSIA, NATO COULD COOPERATE IN PATROLLING MEDITERRANEAN SEA-DEFENSE MINISTER IVANOV

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    OSLO, April 4, 2004. (RIA Novosti) - Russia and the North Atlantic alliance could cooperate in patrolling the Mediterranean Sea, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said during a stopover in the Norwegian capital, en route to the United States.

    We do not rule out the option of joint patrols in the Mediterranean Sea by warships of NATO and Russia's Black Sea Fleet to maintain security in the area," he said. But such collaborative raids should not go beyond regulatory frameworks, he underlined.

    Policing the Mediterranean Sea is needed, among other things, for intercepting vessels with illegal immigrants onboard or ones carrying dangerous freight.

    The Russian Black Sea Fleet, under the auspices of the naval cooperation task group known as the Blackseafor, should guarantee security of the entire Black Sea basin, Mr. Ivanov said. Russia is the backbone of this force, grouping Russian and Turkish men-of-war, as well as warships of other countries washed by the Black Sea, he noted.

    Blackseafor commanders are expected to hold a two-day session April 6 and 7 in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi, the minister announced.

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