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Friday, 23 November, 2001, 01:27 GMT
Nato brings radical offer to Putin
Sergei Ivanov and George Robertson
Lord Robertson (right): "We are in coalition again"
Nato Secretary-General George Robertson is meeting President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, as the alliance and its former enemy foster closer security ties in the wake of the attacks in the United States.

Lord Robertson will discuss a UK proposal to give Moscow a say in some Nato decisions which he said could lead to a "sea-change" in relations with Russia.

Once again we are in a coalition against a common enemy, the common enemy of global terrorism

Lord Robertson
He said after talks on Thursday with Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov that the proposal would give Russia "a right of equality" with Nato's 19 members.

The idea put forward at the weekend by UK Prime Minister Tony Blair - and currently being studied by Nato - does not, however, extend to offering Russia membership of the alliance.

It envisages Russia joining what Lord Robertson described as a special council - one that he said would mark "a huge change, a sea change, in the way we do business".

Vladimir Putin
President Putin does not want Nato membership

Lord Robertson's two-day visit to Russia comes amid calls for closer co-operation on both sides.

On Thursday Mr Putin made clear Russia was not asking for membership.

But he said: "We are ready to bring our positions closer to Nato's in many directions, to the extent that the alliance itself is ready for that."

During talks with Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov, Lord Robertson said the West and the Soviet Union had missed an opportunity to work together after World War II and needed now to co-operate to build security for the future.

Taleban threat

He praised Moscow's support for the US-led campaign against terror, describing it as politically crucial.

"Once again we are in a coalition against a common enemy, the common enemy of global terrorism," he said.

But he warned that the threat posed by the Taleban was still real.

"The Taleban is in retreat but is not yet defeated. But they will be defeated and al-Qaeda and Bin Laden will face justice for what they did in New York and elsewhere," he said.

Workers clear rubble at ground zero
Relations have changed since 11 September

Ahead of the talks, Mr Ivanov said that Moscow was seeking equal status and the "right to a voice" within the Atlantic alliance.

However he warned that on defence issues major differences between Washington and Moscow still remained.

He stressed that the dispute over the proposed US national missile defence system is still far from resolved.

"We are waiting for concrete proposals from the US side," Mr Ivanov said.

The BBC's Steve Rosenberg in Moscow says that in the past all talk of Nato expansion eastwards has been met with fierce words and veiled threats, but that the rhetoric has rapidly changed in recent weeks.

Earlier Lord Robertson visited the southern city of Volgograd, formerly Stalingrad, to lay a wreath at a World War II memorial.

Some one million Soviet soldiers and civilians lost their lives in a gruelling, 200-day battle against Nazi forces at Stalingrad in 1942-1943 that marked a turning point in the war.

The BBC's Steve Rosenberg
"Lord Robertson came... to promote the idea of a new partnership"
Nato Secretary-General Lord Robertson
"I hope we will be able to find a way of deepening co-operation"
See also:

17 Nov 01 | UK Politics
Blair pushes Russia-Nato ties
21 Oct 01 | Americas
Bush and Putin's promising chemistry
16 Nov 01 | Americas
Russia: America's new friend
25 Sep 01 | Europe
A significant step for Russia
23 Feb 01 | Europe
Russia targets UK Chechens
03 Oct 01 | Europe
Analysis: Putin looks West
15 Oct 01 | Country profiles
Quick guide: Nato
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