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    RUSSIA-NATO STATUS-OF-FORCES AGREEMENT MAY BE SIGNED BEFORE YEAR'S END-RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTER

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    OSLO, April 4, 2004. (RIA Novosti) - Russia and NATO may sign a status-of-forces agreement as early as this year, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said during a stopover in the Norwegian capital, before heading on for the United States.

    "I hope we'll sign a status-of-forces agreement this year, which will make it possible for NATO units and hardware to enter our territory and for our units to enter the alliance's member states," Mr. Ivanov said. Such a document is being prepared within the framework of Russia-NATO cooperation in the fight against international terrorism, the minister explained.

    In reply to a question from RIA Novosti about the practical component of that cooperation, the Russian Defense Minister said that in practical terms, the sides kept sharing expertise and perspectives. Thus, for instance, Russia shares with NATO its experience in Afghanistan, he specified. Also, as part of counter-terrorism cooperation, Russia allows Afghanistan-bound German military freights to be transported across its territory, by land and air alike. An agreement for such transits from France is forthcoming.

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