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    NATO WATCHING CIS TRAINING EXERCISES

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    ZHELEZNODOROZHNY, April 7, 2004. (RIA Novosti) - The NATO Air Force watched the CIS joint air defense system command post training exercises, Lieutenant General Aitech Bizhev, the deputy commander-in-chief of the Russian Air Force, told reporters on Wednesday.

    "A refueling plane took off from the Manas airbase (Kyrgyzstan)," the general said. "Naturally, they were on a reconnaissance mission, they apparently knew about today's CIS joint air defense system exercises."

    Manas is an airbase used by NATO countries that are part of the anti-terrorist coalition. Today, it is fully controlled by the United States.

    "We will track them with radar units and observe them. If they violate flight rules, we will naturally make well-founded decisions," the general said.

    "Therefore, at every base in neighboring countries the NATO Air Force will conduct reconnaissance missions and show an increased interest in the exercises," he added. Gen. Bizhev said that NATO was notified about the command post training exercises.

    According to the general, these exercises cannot be regarded as the reply to the recent entry of the Baltic states into NATO. "Nothing unusual has taken place. We are watching the actions of NATO planes that are deployed in the region and are taking adequate measures in accordance with their flights," he said.

    The command post training exercises of the air force and air defense units of CIS countries started on Wednesday. The Air Defense Forces of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Russia take part in these training exercises. Commander-in-Chief of the Air Forces of the Russian Federation Vladimir Mikhailov is commanding the training exercises from the Russian Air Forces central command point.

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