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    Putin says Russia ready to return to CFE if the West ratifies it

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    Russia will resume its participation in the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty if the West starts observing its provisions, President Vladimir Putin said Monday.

    MOSCOW, December 3 (RIA Novosti) - Russia will resume its participation in the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty if the West starts observing its provisions, President Vladimir Putin said Monday.

    "If our [Western] partners finally ratify these agreements [under the CFE] and start observing them, then we could fully re-establish our participation [in the treaty]," Putin told a news conference in Moscow.

    "But I would like to reiterate that we won't wait forever [for the West to make this step]," he said.

    Putin signed last Friday a law suspending Russia's participation in the CFE Treaty. The unilateral moratorium will become effective at midnight on December 12.

    Moscow considers the CFE treaty to be discriminatory and outdated since it does not reflect the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, the breakup of the Soviet Union, or recent NATO expansion.

    Russia has been pushing for a new adapted version of the treaty. However, NATO countries have insisted on Russia's withdrawal from Moldova and Georgia as a condition for their ratification of the modified document.

    The original CFE treaty was signed in December 1990 by 16 NATO countries and six Warsaw Pact members. The document set equal limits for the sides on five categories of conventional weapons - battle tanks, armored combat vehicles, artillery pieces, combat aircraft and attack helicopters.

    The modified version of the arms control treaty, which Western countries consider a cornerstone of European security, was signed on November 19, 1999 by all NATO countries except Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia and Slovenia.

    Only Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan have ratified the adapted version of the document. NATO countries have insisted on Russia's withdrawal from Moldova and Georgia as a condition for their ratification of the modified CFE Treaty.

    Speaking to reporters in Madrid on November 29 after an annual meeting of the council of foreign ministers of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that "NATO member countries have literally imposed in 2001 their own moratorium on the adapted version of the CFE treaty."

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