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U.S. blocks Russia-NATO Council's cooperation program for 2008

RIA Novosti

08/12/2007 13:05 MOSCOW, December 8 (RIA Novosti) - The United States blocked the Russia-NATO Council's cooperation program for 2008 at a meeting in Brussels, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Saturday.

Russia's law suspending its participation in the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty officially came into force on December 3. The moratorium itself will take effect at the stroke of midnight on December 11-12.

The Americans, Lavrov said, had "issued an ultimatum that the Russia-NATO Council's programs for 2008 stipulate that all Council members continue to observe the CFE."

"As this would contradict the law signed by the Russian president to suspend our implementation of the treaty, we could not agree to that, and unfortunately the U.S. delegation blocked approval for the entire cooperation program," the Russian diplomat added upon his return from Friday's Russia-NATO Council meeting in Brussels.

He said the program had included cooperation projects between his country and the 26-nation bloc for 2008, including the implementation of an anti-terrorist program, joint efforts to enhance cooperation against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and programs to fight drug trafficking and man-made catastrophes.

Lavrov said that although the above projects would be developed further, the fact that an important document fixing a large number of partnership spheres was blocked over the "biased position" of U.S. colleagues provoked "regret."

Moscow considers the original CFE treaty, signed in December 1990 by 16 NATO countries and six Warsaw Pact members, to be discriminatory and outdated since it does not reflect the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, the breakup of the Soviet Union, or recent NATO expansion.

Speaking of the CFE Treaty, Lavrov said that "the old treaty has lost its meaning," as the preservation of flank limitations hampered an effective fight against terrorism.

Lavrov also said: "If you look at NATO's geographical position in the north, in the west, or in the south, these armaments [NATO's armaments under the CFE Treaty] and military hardware cannot be used there, because these are land-based armaments, while there are seas and oceans around, and so the east is the only destination."

Russia has also proposed establishing ceiling limits for armaments to all NATO members, regardless of the alliance's plans to expand, although Lavrov said the proposal has yet to be discussed.

Lavrov also said the amended version of the CFE Treaty of 1999 needed to be upgraded. Moscow voiced its proposals at an emergency conference of signatories to the CFE Treaty in June.

NATO foreign ministers spoke openly on Friday of difficulties in current relations with Russia.

"This partnership has entered a challenging phase," ministers said in a communique, also saying that, "We value and want to continue our constructive and frank dialogue with Russia, including on issues on which we disagree."

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