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Moldovan premier plays down NATO bid talk

RIA Novosti

10:56 09/10/2009 MOSCOW, October 9 (RIA Novosti) - Moldova's new prime minster has said that membership of NATO is not a priority for the former Soviet republic.

"Moldova is neutral country. This is determined by its constitution," Vladimir Filat said in an interview with the Kommersant daily newspaper published on Friday.

"We want normal relations with NATO," he continued. "Or at least those close to the level that Russia has with the alliance."

Filat's comments come just a month after he said that Moldova needed a transition period "to convince the people of need to join NATO, and to change the perception of NATO as a hostile bloc, which has been created by the Russian media."

The premier also confirmed that Moldova was in favor of the withdrawal of Russian peacekeepers from its breakaway region of Transdnestr and their replacement with an international force.

'It's time to do this," he said. "There is no war here."

The Russian-speaking province of Transdnestr has maintained de facto independence from Moldova since a brief war in 1992, which was the culmination of tensions following the breakup of the Soviet Union.

Russia has had peacekeepers in the region since July 1992, and the negotiation process has been frozen since February 2006.

The Moldovan premier also said that reunification with Romania was out of the question, blaming recent speculation on "propaganda, carried out by the Communists during the elections."

"There's been enough speculation on unification with Romania," he said. "Moldova has realised itself as a state, and the people who live here consider themselves its citizens. Neither people want unification, nor is it legally possible."

However, he noted that Moldova was interested in good relations with neighboring Romania.

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