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NATO chief plays down differences with Russia at Lavrov meeting

RIA Novosti

12:43 16/12/2009 MOSCOW, December 16 (RIA Novosti) - NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen on Wednesday brushed aside differences between the alliance and Russia saying they should not influence their common interests.

Rasmussen is on a three-day visit to Russia, which was expected to focus on Afghanistan and Russia's possible arms transportation assistance to the international operations there.

Meeting with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Rasmussen acknowledged differences in relations, but said they should not cast a shadow on common interests.

Relations between the military bloc and Moscow have improved in recent months after being frozen in the wake of the August 2008 Russia-Georgia war. Rasmussen has been pushing for ties with Russia to be normalized since he took office in August 2009.

Kommersant daily said on Wednesday citing an unidentified diplomat that NATO looks to supplying lethal cargoes by railroad across Russia to Afghanistan.

Russia has allowed the transit of nonlethal supplies for NATO and U.S. troops in Afghanistan, under an April 2008 deal signed in Bucharest.

Russia's ambassador to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, confirmed the report, saying the issue has been repeatedly raised at consultations, but the alliance has not made any formal requests.

Echoing the secretary general, Lavrov said that "differences remain, but we are not overreacting to them, although they should be settled."

In Moscow, Rasmussen is also to meet with President Dmitry Medvedev, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and other officials and politicians.

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