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    DEVELOPMENTS IN KOSOVO, AFGHANISTAN AND COOPERATION AGAINST TERRORISM WILL DOMINATE AT TALKS BETWEEN NATO CHIEF AND RUSSIAN AUTHORITIES

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    MOSCOW, April 8, 2004 (RIA Novosti) - NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer is expected to discuss with the Russian authorities the situation surrounding Kosovo, the Middle East and Afghanistan, issues related to cooperation against terrorism and the NATO enlargement.

    Moscow expects talks with the NATO chief "will promote the development of relations between Russia and the alliance and the rapprochement of their positions on cooperation issues," according to Alexander Yakovenko, a Russian Foreign Ministry official spokesman.

    The adjustment of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) remains one of the most burning issues on the Russia-NATO agenda, Mr Yakovenko said in a RIA Novosti interview.

    Issues related to enhancing the operational compatibility of Russia's and NATO's military potentials, including through joint exercises and training, will also be central on Mr Scheffer's visit agenda, according to the diplomat.

    "Russia is ready to continue working in these and other areas of cooperation," said Mr Yakovenko.

    The NATO chief, for his part, said in an interview with RIA Novosti that current relations between Russia and NATO were better than ever.

    Mr Scheffer said the two parties had accumulated impressive experience of practical cooperation in combating terrorism, dealing with emergencies and in the defence sector reform.

    Moreover, NATO countries and Russia are considering joining efforts with respect to Afghanistan, according to Mr Scheffer. He said Moscow had already suggested its airspace and other transit opportunities as aid to the international peacekeeping contingent in Afghanistan.

    Mr Scheffer also deemed it necessary to look into the prospects for cooperation in the Mediterranean, where NATO was conducting operations at sea ensuring protection against terrorism and preventing the transportation of weapons of mass destruction.

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