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NATO urges Russia to tone down anti-alliance rhetoric

by Staff Writers
Moscow (AFP) March 12, 2008
NATO urged Russia on Wednesday to tone down its "fiery rhetoric" after repeated Moscow attacks on the growing influence of the military alliance and US plans to base parts of a missile shield in Europe.

"We have seen too much rhetoric at too high a level... we would like to see it dialled down," NATO spokesman James Appathurai told the Russian press in a video-conference, speaking from Brussels.

"Fiery rhetoric does make the headlines and there has been a little too much of it," he said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday accused NATO of aiming to replace the United Nations and warned of raising the potential for conflict.

"You get the impression that attempts are being made to set up an organisation that would substitute for the UN," he said after talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Relations between Russia and the Western military alliance have deteriorated in recent years amid a NATO expansion drive, US plans to install anti-missile defences in central Europe and Moscow's suspension of a key Cold War-era arms pact.

Putin is expected to attend a NATO summit early next month in Bucharest which will include some 50 heads of state and government including US President George W. Bush.

Washington's anti-missile shield plans have particularly angered Russia, which sees them as a threat to its security.

In an interview published Monday, Russia's envoy to NATO issued a new warning against ex-Soviet states Georgia and Ukraine joining the Western alliance.

Kiev and Tbilisi are expected to confirm that they are candidates to join NATO at the Bucharest summit, but their chances of a formal invitation to proceed are considered slight.

Appathurai said the alliance has had discussions with Georgia and Ukraine, but "no decision has been taken; discussions are continuing."

He added that "Russian views are heard... but NATO nations are the only parties who decide on invitations."

On the issue of Georgia's two breakaway regions of Abkazia and South Ossetia, he said: "NATO allies are unanimous and firm in support for the territorial integrity of Georgia."

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US military admits 'limited' understanding of Chinese aims
Washington (AFP) March 12, 2008
A top US military leader on Tuesday admitted the United States has a limited understanding of Chinese military aims and is concerned about Beijing's lack of transparency.

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