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    NATO secretary general seeks 'strategic partnership' with Russia

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    NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen dismissed the idea that Russia is likely to become a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in the near future and called instead for a "strategic partnership" with Moscow, Deutsche Welle reported.

    NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen dismissed the idea that Russia is likely to become a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in the near future and called instead for a "strategic partnership" with Moscow, Deutsche Welle reported.

    "I've taken note of some statements from Moscow that Russia would never apply for NATO membership, because it was able to take care of security matters on its own," Rasmussen said after talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Friday.

    "So, let's rather pursue what I consider a realistic future, namely a true strategic partnership between NATO and Russia."

    The NATO chief expressed hope that Russia would drop its objections to the planned anti-missile defense shield in eastern Europe.

    Russia has retained staunch opposition to the deployment of anti-missile defense systems near to its borders, claiming they would be a security threat. NATO and the United States insist that the shield would defend NATO territories against missiles from North Korea and Iran and would not be directed at Russia.

    Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has proposed drawing up a pan-European security pact instead of the shield, although Western nations and NATO are extremely reluctant to support the plans.

    Medvedev surprised NATO member states on Tuesday by agreeing to attend the NATO summit in Lisbon on November 19 and 20, at which European defense will be a key topic of discussion.

    "The openness of Russia towards discussion over the missile defense system is a good signal," Merkel said.

    Rasmussen said he also hoped to develop cooperation with Russia on issues such as Afghanistan and international counter-terrorism.

    "There is a broad scope of areas where we could develop a broad scope of practical cooperation with Russia," the NATO chief said.

    MOSCOW, October 23 (RIA Novosti)

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