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    NATO AIRSPACE PATROLS POSE NO THREAT TO RUSSIA-SCHEFFER

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    MOSCOW, April 8 (RIA Novosti) - Policing the airspace of NATO's three new Baltic states by Belgian planes does not pose any threat to Russia's security, Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer pointed out at today's meeting with leaders of the State Duma (the lower house of the Russian parliament). It will be remembered that Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia joined the alliance earlier this month along with four other European nations, including Slovenia, Slovakia, Romania, and Bulgaria.

    Mr. Scheffer emphasized the importance of cooperation between Russia and the North Atlantic alliance. "We have too many interests in common," he remarked. The NATO Secretary-General underlined Russia's prominent role in world politics, adding that partnership with NATO was in the nation's best interest.

    Scheffer cautioned Russian officials against resorting to Cold War rhetoric in their dialogue with NATO. Highlighting the momentum in cooperation between Russia and the North Atlantic alliance, he cited statistics according to which fifty-seven joint military exercises had been held since the start of this year, as compared with just seven in 2002.

    In conclusion, the NATO Secretary-General praised Russia's Parliament for its contribution to the development of bilateral cooperation and promised to come back to Moscow for more talks with Russian MPs.

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