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SCO will not become military alliance-Russian security official

RIA Novosti

22/05/2007 14:29 MOSCOW, May 22 (RIA Novosti) - The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) will not be transformed into a military alliance, Russia's senior security official said Tuesday.

The regional group, dominated by Russia and China, is widely seen as a counter to U.S. influence in resource-rich Central Asia and NATO's expansion.

"The issue of transforming the organization into a military alliance has not been brought up," Security Council Secretary Igor Ivanov said.

Ivanov said SCO military exercises were conducted to practice cooperation in antiterrorism operations. The next exercise, Peace Mission 2007, which is likely to involve air forces and precision weapons, will take place in Russia's Urals, close to Central Asia, in July. Russia's then Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said earlier the exercise would be open to the media.

The group, which also comprises the former Soviet republics of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, says it focuses on fighting drug and arms trafficking, terrorism and separatism, and it has conducted a number of joint military exercises since 2003.

Russia and China also held their first-ever joint military exercise in 2005 outside the SCO framework, following which Russian officials raised the prospect of India - an SCO observer nation, along with Pakistan and Iran - participating in the exercises in the future.

"The SCO's objective is to raise the efficiency of efforts to counter negative trends in the region and the world through collective arrangements," Ivanov said.

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