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    PUTIN MEETS NATO SECRETARY GENERAL

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    MOSCOW, April 8 (RIA Novosti) - Nato's expansion does not make it possible to counteract effectively present-day threats, Russian President Vladimir Putin said at his meeting with Nato Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer in the Kremlin on Thursday.

    The Russian president noted that Moscow's position on Nato's expansion was known and had not changed.

    "Indeed, reality confirms that such an automatic expansion of the Alliance does not let us effectively counteract present-day threats we are faced with. This expansion has failed to prevent the terrorist attacks in Madrid and to help Afghanistan's restoration," said Mr. Putin.

    At the same time, the president added, "each country has the right to choose the security option it deems best."

    Mr. Putin is hopeful that Nato's expansion will increase trust in Europe and will become "a component, an instrument of increasing trust in the world."

    To this end, he said, trust should be increased between Nato and Russia.

    In this connection, Mr. Putin pointed out the need for stronger co-operation within the Russia-Nato Council.

    Nato's Secretary General invited Mr. Putin to the Alliance's summit due in Istanbul in late June 2004.

    Thereby Mr. Scheffer confirmed the invitation that former Nato Secretary General George Robertson made to Mr. Putin during his last visit to Russia last October.

    I'm hopeful that you'll accept the invitation, made by my predecessor, to attend Nato's summit in Istanbul, said Mr. Scheffer. I am sure that all Nato allies would appreciate this, he continued. We should fill the meeting with content, he said emphasising the need for further discussions of the Russian-Nato relationship.

    Earlier, Russian Security Council Secretary Igor Ivanov met the Nato chief.

    According to the press service of the Russian Security Council, the meeting highlighted various aspects of Russia-Nato relations.

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