June 29, 2009 / 2:45 PM / 11 years ago

Russia, U.S. may sign Afghan military cargo deal

* Deal would be for more U.S. cargo transits to Afghanistan

* It would be signed during Obama July 6-8 visit to Moscow

MOSCOW, June 29 (Reuters) - Russia and the United States may sign a deal for more transits of U.S. military cargo to Afghanistan via Russia when U.S. President Barack Obama visits Moscow next week, Russia’s ambassador to NATO said on Monday.

Moscow and its former Soviet allies in Central Asia agreed earlier this year to allow NATO to deliver non-lethal cargo to U.S.-led coalition forces in Afghanistan across their territory, complementing a more dangerous route via Pakistan.

Dmitry Rogozin, Moscow’s envoy to NATO, said Russia had also signed bilateral agreements on additional cargo supplies to troops deployed in Afghanistan with France, Germany and Spain.

Asked in a video link from Brussels if a similar deal was being discussed with the United States, he replied: "Yes, we know the U.S. side has addressed (Russia) with the same request. And not only the Americans but another country too, which I am not going to name now."

"This issue is to be decided during Obama’s visit to Moscow." Obama is scheduled to make his first visit to Moscow as U.S. leader on July 6-8.

General Nikolai Makarov, head of the Russian general staff, said last week that Moscow and Washington would sign deals on military cooperation during Obama’s visit. He gave no detail.

Quoting a foreign diplomatic source close to NATO’s leadership, Russia’s Kommersant daily said on Monday that the deal with the United States would cover both land and air transits of U.S. military cargo via Russia.

Some 12 U.S. cargo planes could be crossing Russia’s air space daily en route to Afghanistan, the diplomat said.

Russia’s state-owned railway monopoly OAO RZhD, keen to earn extra revenue, is ready to handle U.S. military cargo by rail, Kommersant quoted a Russian diplomat familiar with the issue.

However, Russia’s drug enforcement agency said last Friday that Moscow should stop the transport of cargo across its territory to U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan if they do not do more to cut the flow of heroin to Russia. (Reporting by Dmitry Solovyov; Editing by Richard Balmforth)

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