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Russia, NATO agree on transit of non-lethal cargo to Afghanistan

RIA Novosti

04/04/2008 12:25 BUCHAREST, April 4 (RIA Novosti) - Russia and NATO have agreed on land transits for non-lethal freight through Russian territory to NATO troops deployed in Afghanistan, Russia's envoy to NATO said on Friday.

"Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer exchanged letters on transits of NATO non-lethal cargo across Russia to Afghanistan during an official ceremony in Bucharest," Dmitry Rogozin said.

He said the deal mainly concerned food and non-military supplies, but included some types of non-lethal military equipment. The supplies will be transported across Russia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

The agreement comes shortly before a meeting between alliance leaders and Russian

President Vladimir Putin in Bucharest and is widely seen as a sign of Russia's willingness to cooperate with NATO despite strained relations over the bloc's eastern expansion towards Russia's borders, Kosovo's independence and U.S. plans to deploy its missile defenses in central Europe.

Sergei Lavrov said on March 18 following his meeting in Moscow with the U.S. secretaries of state and defense that Russia was considering the issue of providing logistics support to counter-terrorism operations in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan, where the hard-line Islamic Taliban regime was overthrown in a 2001 U.S.-led campaign, has seen a rise in violence in recent years. The country is also the world's leader in the illegal opium trade, with huge areas of its arable land sown with poppies.

NATO maintains a 47,000-strong peacekeeping contingent in Afghanistan and is planning to send more troops to the conflict-stricken area.

Several years ago Russia permitted military transit for French and German military contingents deployed in Afghanistan.

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