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    CIS DEFENSE MINISTERS MEET IN ARMENIA

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    YEREVAN, May 21 (RIA Novosti) - The Council of the Defense Ministers of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) has held a meeting in Armenia. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov made a series of statements after the meeting.

    He said Russia had set up a body to control portable anti-aircraft missile complexes.

    However, the problem of control over the complexes was not discussed at today's meeting, according to Mr Ivanov.

    "The presidents of our countries already adopted all decisions on the matter at their meeting in Yalta, in September 2003. We are implementing the decisions," said Mr Ivanov.

    Mr Ivanov said Russia had notified its partners of the emergence of the body, as a number of CIS states had not established such bodies yet.

    The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) does not plan to enlarge, thus far, according to Mr Ivanov.

    "There are no plans on this score," Mr Ivanov said when asked about the possibility of enlarging the CSTO (which involves Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan).

    "Other countries, not parties to the CSTO, have not approached us with relevant requests," added the minister.

    The CIS defense ministers are ready to agree on their positions on nuclear non-proliferation.

    "The participants in the meeting of the CIS Council of Defense Ministers unanimously supported the proposal to agree on our countries' positions on such a burning issue," said Mr Ivanov.

    Speaking about the CIS single anti-aircraft defense system, Mr Ivanov that it was a viable and efficient system. "The system has proved itself to be efficient during a recent military exercise," said the minister.

    The anti-terrorist contingents of some of the CIS countries, specifically Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia and Ukraine, will take part in a military exercise in Moldova in late June, according to the Russian minister. He added that major exercises would be also conducted in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan in early August. Russia will send its transport and combat aircraft to take part in the exercise. Russian permanent alert units will also be airlifted to the region, according to Mr Ivanov.

    Mr Ivanov also touched on a sensitive problem of housing for the military. He believes mortgage schemes for the military would make army service more attractive.

    Mr Ivanov recalled that the Russian government had considered, on Thursday, accumulation and mortgage housing schemes for the military.

    "This will be a major step towards resolving the problem," he said.

    The minister added that housing schemes would cover officers and warrant officers, as well as the rank and file.

    "Serving in the Armed Forces will finally become attractive," said the minister.

    The mortgage scheme will allow to amend the present situation when servicemen have to resign from military service to receive free housing, according to Mr Ivanov.

    When speaking about the possibility of Armenia's joining NATO, Armenian Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisyan said the issue was not on the country's foreign policy agenda.

    "When I was asked about whether the Russian military base would withdraw from Armenia yesterday, I said it was a rhetorical question and the answer was obviously 'no.' As to membership in NATO, the matter is obviously not on Armenia's foreign policy agenda either," said Mr Sarkisyan.

    Mr Ivanov, who is holding the chair at the CIS Council of Defense Ministers, briefed Armenian President Robert Kocharyan on the decisions adopted by the ministers after the council meeting.

    Mr Ivanov emphasized that the decisions would promote security and stability throughout the CIS.

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