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Russia worried by NATO expansion

Russia is concerned about the expansion of NATO's infrastructure in the new member states of the northern alliance, Russia's defense minister said.
PORTOROZ (Slovenia), September 29 (RIA Novosti) - Russia is concerned about the expansion of NATO's infrastructure in the new member states of the northern alliance, Russia's defense minister said.

Sergei Ivanov, who is also deputy prime minister, said at a session of the Russia-NATO Council: "We are worried by the reconfiguration of NATO's infrastructure without prospects for the ratification of the Adapted Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe [CFE]."

The CFE treaty establishes limits on military hardware and troop numbers for all countries from the Atlantic to the Urals, and aims to establish a military balance on the European continent. The Istanbul Commitments, signed along with the Adapted CFE treaty in Istanbul in 1999, concern Russia's military presence on its southern flank.

The minister's comments came against the backdrop of a diplomatic scandal caused by the arrest of Russian officers in Tbilisi for allegedly spying. Relations between the countries have been tense in the last few years over Georgia's two separatist republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, where Russian peacekeeping forces have been stationed since the bloody conflicts of the early 1990s.

Ivanov also voiced Russia's worries over Georgia's active acquisition of weapons. "We are concerned over Georgia's policy of stepping up arms purchases."

On Thursday, he accused certain new members of NATO of supplying Georgia with weapons obtained earlier from the U.S.S.R., when they did not have the right to re-export them. He said conventional weapons laws were being violated.

"This is piracy," he added.

Former members of the communist-bloc in Europe -- Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia -- became NATO members in 2004.

Ivanov also thanked the secret services of some NATO member states for their assistance in the search for the terrorists responsible for executing Russian diplomats in Iraq.

One Russian Embassy employee was shot June 3 in an attack on a car in Baghdad. Four others were abducted and executed by an al-Qaeda linked group.

Ivanov said the situation in the Middle East country was far from being stable, despite the presence of multinational forces there since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime.

"Russia is extremely concerned by the continuing efforts of extremist forces to plunge Iraq into the chaos of civil war," he said.

Ivanov called on NATO to step up its cooperation in countering terrorism and developing a single concept of joint measures in the field. "By this I mean finalizing the document on the role of the military in the fight against terrorism," he said.

Work on the document was ongoing since 2004 until being blocked by some NATO countries for unknown reasons.

Russia has bolstered a pilot project to train anti-terrorist police from Afghanistan and other Central Asian countries, and the minister said special courses for Afghan police will start in the Russian Interior Ministry soon.

Referring to the influx of terrorist organizations since the fall of the Taliban, Ivanov said: "There is no solution to the problem of Afghanistan through the use of force."

He said Russia was sure the country's problems could be solved through the diplomatic, political and economic involvement of the world community, taking into account Afghanistan's history and providing for an ethnically balanced representation in its government bodies.

Ivanov also offered Russia's assistance in the fight against drug trafficking.

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