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    MOSCOW HOPES NATO SECRETARY GENERAL VISIT WILL PROMOTE RUSSIA-NATO RELATIONS

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    MOSCOW, April 7, 2004 (RIA Novosti) - Moscow hopes that talks with NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer will promote the development of relations between Russia and the alliance, as well as rapprochement of positions on problematic issues of the relations, Alexander Yakovenko, the official spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, said in an interview with RIA Novosti. Mr. De Hoop Scheffer's first visit to Moscow as the NATO secretary general begins today.

    According to Mr. Yakovenko, the problems surrounding the ratification of an agreement to adapt the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty is, as before, one of the urgent items on the Russia-NATO agenda. The Foreign Ministry spokesman recalled that at the Russia-NATO meeting in Brussels on April 2 Moscow voiced its concern that limitations envisaged by this treaty are not in force in Baltic states that were admitted to the alliance. NATO gave guarantees that nuclear weapons and storage facilities, as well as large troop contingents, military hardware and weapons would not be deployed in these countries on a permanent basis.

    "We see no alternative to enforcing the CFE Treaty, which, in general opinion, is the cornerstone of European security. We regard this treaty as a material basis for Russia-NATO relations and intend to continue the search for compromise solutions to have the process of its adapting launched as soon as possible," Mr. Yakovenko stressed.

    He noted that some actions concomitant with NATO's expansion, including the demonstration flights of Awacs planes and the deployment of four F16 fighters in Lithuania allegedly for interception of "air terrorists" aroused the concern of the Russian public.

    "This does not fit in with the spirit and guidelines of the current Russia-NATO partnership," the Russian diplomat stressed.

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