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    Belgium cancels warship visit to Russia

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    Belgium has cancelled an official visit by one of its warships to Russia, a source in the Russian Navy said on Friday.

    ST. PETERSBURG, September 12 (RIA Novosti) - Belgium has cancelled an official visit by one of its warships to Russia, a source in the Russian Navy said on Friday.

    The Belgian F931 Louise-Marie frigate was scheduled to visit a naval base in St. Petersburg on September 12-15.

    "Belgium has sent us a note saying that despite friendly relations between Belgium and Russia NATO has recommended that the country cancel the visit due to the current political crisis," the source said.

    The current crisis in relations between Russia and NATO began when Georgian forces attacked breakaway South Ossetia on August 8, triggering a Russian operation to "force Georgia to peace." Most residents of South Ossetia and another breakaway region, Abkhazia, have Russian citizenship.

    Russia then recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia on August 26.

    NATO subsequently urged Russia to reverse its decision and respect Georgia's territorial integrity. Moscow blamed Western powers for encouraging Tbilisi's aggression and criticized the alliance for building up forces in the Black Sea and helping Georgia to rebuild its defenses in the conflict zone.

    In response, Russia suspended all peacekeeping operations with NATO for at least six months and has frozen its participation in NATO's Partnership for Peace program. Russia's NATO envoy Dmitry Rogozin said on September 8 that Moscow may sever all ties with NATO if the Western military alliance grants Georgia entry into the Membership Action Plan.

    The Louise-Marie is a Karel Doorman class frigate and the second of two frigates of this class purchased by Belgium from the Royal Netherlands Navy on December 22, 2005.

    It served in the Netherlands Royal Navy as the HNLMS Willem van der Zaan (F829) for 15 years.

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