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Kremlin changes tone on NATO expansion

Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov told journalists in Moscow on 21 November that Russia is "absolutely calm" about NATO's membership invitation to seven former Soviet-bloc countries earlier that day, ORT reported. "We are not a member of NATO or a candidate for membership, and so this is none of our business," Ivanov said. He repeated, however, that the Kremlin hopes the Baltic states will sign the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) before they join the alliance.

In Prague, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told reporters following a meeting with Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda that Russia will intensify its cooperation with a reformed NATO, strana.ru reported on 21 November. "We have noted the statements by the U.S. president and other NATO-member leaders that the alliance should be transformed to face new realities and challenges," Ivanov said. He also mentioned the CFE treaty, ITAR-TASS reported. He said that if the alliance's transformation improves security globally and in the Euro-Atlantic region, Russia will intensify its partnership with NATO.

On 22 November, Ivanov participated in a session of the Russia-NATO Council that discussed a cooperation plan for 2003. Afterward, he joined U.S. President George W. Bush on Air Force One for the flight to St. Petersburg, where Bush was to meet with President Putin.

(RFE/RL 22.xi.02)

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