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    Afghan transit deal gives Russia right to inspect U.S. flights

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    Moscow will have the right to inspect U.S. military planes flying over its territory under a deal with Washington on transit to Afghanistan, the Russian foreign minister said on Tuesday.

    MOSCOW, June 7 (RIA Novosti) - Moscow will have the right to inspect U.S. military planes flying over its territory under a deal with Washington on transit to Afghanistan, the Russian foreign minister said on Tuesday.

    Russia and the United States signed on Monday an agreement on military transit, both overland and by air, via Russian territory to Afghanistan.

    The deal was signed at Kremlin talks during President Barack Obama's first visit to Russia and was praised by the U.S. leader as a sign of Moscow's willingness to help in the war against the radical Islamic Taliban movement.

    In an interview with Vesti TV, Sergei Lavrov said the U.S. planned to make 4,500 flights to Afghanistan via Russian airspace.

    "Russian jurisdiction will be applied at all times, whenever we so demand. We have the right to ground any flight to inspect the cargo to see what is actually on board," he said.

    He added that the procedure was well defined, that "this highly transparent and effective mechanism was accepted by the American side, and I hope it will work smoothly."

    Russia already has bilateral transit deals with Germany, France and Spain, and also signed an agreement with NATO in 2008 on the rail transit of non-lethal supplies to Afghanistan.

    The U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) has about 62,000 troops in Afghanistan under a UN mandate to give security support to the Afghan government and stop the flow of drugs from the country.

    President Obama recently pledged to increase U.S. troop numbers in the war-ravaged country.

     

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