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    PRESIDENT PUTIN NEGOTIATING WITH NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL IN KREMLIN

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    MOSCOW, April 8, 2004. (RIA Novosti) - Negotiations between Russian President Vladimir Putin and NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer are being held in the Kremlin.

    The talks are planned to discuss the situation around Kosovo, in the Middle East, and Afghanistan, cooperation in the fight against terrorism, and the alliance's enlargement. Alexander Yakovenko, an official Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman, on the day before the meeting between Putin and Scheffer said that one of the most pressing items on the Russian-NATO agenda remains ratification of an agreement on adapting the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty.

    At a news conference in RIA Novosti on Thursday, Yakovenko confirmed that at talks with the NATO secretary-general Moscow intends to focus its attention on ratification of the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty. "We would like to see an early inclusion in this treaty of four new NATO members (Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Slovenia). We do not want the non-membership of these countries to create 'gray zones' and possibilities to remain for building up armaments there," Yakovenko said.

    The official spokesman also noted that Russia is concerned by AWACS planes patrolling territories directly adjoining the Russian border.

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