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NATO Secretary General calls for Russian help in Afghanistan

RIA Novosti

21:51 07/10/2009 BRUSSELS, October 7 (RIA Novosti) - NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen urged Russia on Wednesday to provide assistance in training and equipping the Afghan Army.

At his first news conference as NATO chief, Rasmussen, who took office on August 3, said he hoped for a "true strategic partnership" with Russia and called for active practical cooperation with Moscow on Afghanistan, international terrorism, piracy and nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

"Russia could provide equipment for the Afghan security forces. Russia could provide training. We could explore in a joint effort how we could further Russian engagement," Rasmussen said.

Moscow and Washington signed a deal on military transit to Afghanistan via Russian territory, both overland and by air, on July 6 during President Barack Obama's visit to Russia.

Russia already has bilateral transit deals with Germany, France and Spain, and also signed an agreement with NATO in 2008 on rail transit of non-lethal supplies to Afghanistan.

NATO is set to add up 40,000 troops to the Afghan Army to increase its number to 134,000 by the end of 2010 as the fight against the Taliban, deposed by a U.S.-led invasion in 2001, goes on.

The NATO chief also announced on Wednesday he would visit Russia in December for talks with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and other top Russian officials.

Relations between Russia and NATO collapsed after the August 2008 war between Russia and Georgia, which provoked the alliance to suspend formal NATO-Russia Council meetings and cooperation in some areas.

Rasmussen also told reporters that the findings of an international commission investigating the causes of the war would not affect the prospects for Georgia joining NATO.

The report, compiled by the Swiss diplomat Heidi Tagliavini, along with 30 European military, legal and history specialists, puts the blame firmly on Tbilisi for starting the conflict, but says that subsequent Russian actions "went far beyond the reasonable limits of defense" and also were "in violation of international law."

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