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NATO's Rasmussen to Moscow for Afghan, missile talks

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The head of NATO will visit Russia early next month to discuss increasing cooperation in Afghanistan and on missile defence ahead of a November 19-20 summit with Moscow, a NATO spokesman said on Wednesday.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen delivers a speech during a parliamentary group meeting of Germany's environmental Greens party Die Gruenen in Berlin, October 22, 2010. REUTERS/Tobias Schwarz

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen will hold talks with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on November 5, a day after talks in London with Prime Minister David Cameron.

The Moscow talks will cover Afghanistan and NATO’s aim to expand supply routes to its troops there via Russia, stepped up Russian training of counter-narcotics officers and a call by Rasmussen for Russia to provide helicopters for Afghan forces and to train pilots, NATO spokesman James Appathurai said.

He said they would also deal with NATO’s offer to Russia to cooperate on missile defence, in counter-terrorism and counter-piracy and a joint review of security challenges.

Appathurai stressed enhanced cooperation would not involve any discussion of Russian forces being deployed in Afghanistan, which has been suggested in some media reports despite Russia’s traumatic experience there in the 1980s.

“That is not something NATO is looking for, that is not something the Russians wish to do and it is not something the Afghans have requested; to be very clear that is not on the agenda,” he said.

He said no decision had been taken as to how the helicopters would be paid for, but the plan involved up to 21 machines.

The spokesman said he did not know where training might take place for pilots, but noted that current Russian training for Afghan counter-narcotics forces took place near Moscow.

RUSSIAN DEMAND

A leading Russian newspaper reported on Wednesday that Russia was demanding that any new cooperation deal with NATO include limits on the number of troops posted in the alliance’s new member states in central Europe.

Russia has also said it wants assurances about a proposed U.S. missile shield in Europe, which Moscow says should be limited to defence against short- and medium-range missiles, so as not to negate its strategic arsenal.

The Kommersant daily cited Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov as saying Moscow had demanded a ban on the deployment of “significant military forces” in the states that have joined NATO since the end of the Cold War.

Appathurai said NATO already committed to Russia in 1997 that it would not “permanently station substantial forces on the territory of new members.”

“We have met that commitment -- There is no permanent stationing of substantial combat forces,” he said.

Russia’s envoy to NATO Dmitry Rogozin told Kommersant Moscow wants troop limits as a way to make non-aggression agreements already secured on a political level legally binding.

The Russian proposal would likely stir opposition in former Eastern Bloc countries in central Europe which joined NATO in part as a guarantee against Russian domination.

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