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    MOSCOW BELIEVES NATO MAY DEPLOY NUCLEAR WEAPONS IN BALTIC REPUBLICS

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    MOSCOW, April 13 (RIA Novosti) - The General Staff of Russia's Armed Forces does not rule out that NATO may deploy nuclear weapons in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, the former Soviet republics and now the new NATO nations, Yury Baluyevsky, First Deputy Chief of General Staff, said at a press conference in Moscow on Tuesday.

    However, such issues cannot be regarded as internal affairs of a Baltic state in question or the United States. "The international community's opinions must not be disregarded," emphasized Gen. Baluyevsky.

    Gen. Baluyevsky said Moscow believed the emergence of new military alliances made no sense.

    "If we follow the path of creating new military blocs, it will lead us back to the time of opposition between the Soviet Union and later between Russia and NATO, the competition which required a lot of effort and huge funds," said Gen. Baluyevsky.

    Speaking about NATO's possibilities, he said that any organization, which involves more than 6 members, was actually uncontrollable.

    In comments on media reports that Russia may join the alliance with time, the general said Moscow had not even discussed that question.

    It is not that important whether Russia will join NATO or not. Russia does not need to join any coalitions whatsoever to protect itself, according to Gen. Baluyevsky.

    However, Moscow is interested in political, economic and cultural cooperation with NATO nations, he noted.

    Russia is, for example, creating a peacekeeping unit for joint actions with NATO.

    "Russia is raising a brigade, but my opinion is that creating a unit specially for peacekeeping missions is a costly undertaking," said Gen. Baluyevsky.

    When speaking about latest developments in Iraq, Gen. Baluyevsky said Russia's General Staff had information on the coalition forces' real toll, but did not elaborate further, saying he did not want to enjoy a small triumph over others' misfortunes.

    According to General Baluyevsky, the General Staff believes the Iraqi conflict will not end any time soon.

    Iraq's authorities have been somewhat perplexed lately, according to him.

    "Some units of Iraq's Armed Forces have declined to help the coalition forces in crushing the uprising, while the Shiites, whose support was important for the coalition, are involved in the uprising," recalled the general.

    The general emphasized that the US-led coalition had won an easy victory over venal servicemen, rather than over the Iraqi people.

    Gen. Baluyevsky also said the Russian Armed Forces were not linked to the Qatar developments.

    (Some of the Arab newspapers wrote on Monday that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Ivanov was involved in the assassination of Chechen terrorist leader Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev. Vyacheslav Sedov, chief of the Russian Defense Ministry's press service, called the statements "absurd." Yandarbiyev was killed on February 13 when his car was blown up in Doha, Qatar's capital).

    Gen. Baluyevsky also said at the press conference that more than half of Russia's arms had been withdrawn from Transdniestria (self-proclaimed republic within Moldova).

    "The OSCE is thoroughly monitoring the withdrawal of Russia's equipment and arms from Transdniestria, with OSCE officials monitoring the loading processes, the sealing of train cars and the trains' arrival at the destination point," said the general.

    Moscow allowed international monitoring to rule out accusations of the failure to fulfill the obligations, according to the general.

    General Baluyevsky emphasized that it was impossible to set the deadline for the withdrawal.

    One or two trains laden with Russian military equipment and arms used to leave the Dniester region every day. Russia could have completed the pullout by the end of July with such a train schedule. However, the process has been halted and nobody knows when it will resume and will be completed, according to Gen. Baluyevsky who emphasized that it was not Russia's fault.

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