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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Russian Navy denies plans for bases in Mediterranean countries

RIA Novosti

16/01/2009 18:04 MOSCOW, January 16 (RIA Novosti) - A spokesman for the Russian Navy denied on Friday media rumors about the possible establishment of Russian naval facilities in several countries in the Mediterranean.

Russian media recently reported that Russia was planning to set up naval facilities in Yemen, Syria and Libya, among other countries, in the next few years.

"This report is not official information disseminated by the military authorities and, therefore, is false," Capt. 1st Rank Igor Dygalo said.

The deputy chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces said earlier on Friday that it was too soon to name any countries where its Navy would like to deploy "basing points," but confirmed that the General Staff had backed the Navy command's proposal to develop naval infrastructure outside Russia.

"At this stage it is too early to talk about the geographic location of the basing points. Negotiations are under way with the governments of the countries in question. Any premature disclosure could have a negative impact on the course of these negotiations," Col. Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn said.

The Soviet-era Navy maintenance site near Tartus in Syria is the only Russian foothold in the Mediterranean.

Russian media reports have suggested the facility could be turned into a base for the country's Black Sea Fleet, which could lose its current main base in Sevastopol on the Crimean Peninsula in 2017.

About 50 naval personnel and three floating piers are reportedly deployed at the Tartus site, which can accommodate up to a dozen warships, and Russia is expanding the port and building a pier in nearby El-Latakia.

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