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Russia's defense chief says disputes hold back ties with NATO

RIA Novosti

13/06/2008 15:35 (Adds quotes, details in paras 7-11)

BRUSSELS, June 13 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's defense minister said after talks with NATO counterparts on Friday that disagreements over the CFE treaty and U.S. missile shield plans continue to hold back Russia-NATO relations.

Anatoly Serdyukov met with 10 NATO defense chiefs in Brussels at a Russia-NATO Council session.

"Our relations with our NATO partners are highly valued. But there are issues on which we cannot find agreement. These are the CFE treaty and missile defense," Serdyukov told reporters after the meeting.

"None of this is helping efforts to improve transparency and trust in our cooperation, and puts obstacles in the way of moving cooperation to a new level."

Russia staunchly opposes U.S. plans to place 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar station in the neighboring Czech Republic.

NATO members' reluctance to approve an amended Cold War-era Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty has also proved a source of tension. Russia imposed a moratorium on the treaty late last year.

NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said the talks had been "honest and open", but that disputes remain on a range of issues, including Kosovo and NATO's expansion.

Serdyukov said the sides also discussed upcoming counter-terrorism drills, and the results of this year's cooperation efforts.

The sides "highly rated the Bold Monarch 2008 exercises for rescuing submarine crews in Norway," he said.

Russia's RFS Titov, carrying a deep submergence rescue vehicle, took part in the exercises in the North Sea from May 26 to June 6 this year.

The defense chiefs also discussed Operation Active Endeavour, an ongoing security and counter-terrorist naval operation in the Mediterranean Sea, which Russia will join in August.

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