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Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 June 2007, 17:14 GMT 18:14 UK
Nato urges calm in Russia dispute
Nato Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer with Vladimir Putin
Despite the smiles, relations between Nato and Russia are tense
Russia and the West should tone down their rhetoric in their bitter disputes over defence, Kosovo and other issues, Nato's secretary general has said.

"There is no reason to speak with megaphones," Jaap de Hoop Scheffer told reporters after talks in Moscow.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has threatened to point missiles at Europe if the US stations parts of a new missile shield near Russia's borders.

Moscow also opposes a Western-backed plan for independence in Kosovo.

Mr de Hoop Scheffer was in Moscow to mark the fifth anniversary of the Nato-Russia Council.

"It is advisable to lower the volume of public comments on both sides," he said after talks with President Putin.

"Given our starting point as Cold War adversaries, the task of building a genuine Russia-Nato partnership has never been an easy one."

These remarks about targeting missiles do not fit, and they do not have a place in these discussions
Jaap de Hoop Scheffer

Russia has expressed anger at the proposed US missile defence shield - particularly plans to site a radar in the Czech Republic and 10 anti-missile interceptors in Poland.

Nato and the US say the facilities would not be directed as Russia, but at "rogue" states such as North Korea and Iran.

Mr Putin recently warned that Russia would target its missiles back at Europe if Washington went ahead with the programme.

On Tuesday Mr de Hoop Scheffer said: "The Nato-Russia relationship is one of partnership, and in the framework of the partnership these remarks about targeting missiles do not fit, and they do not have a place in these discussions."

Veto threat

On Kosovo, he said he had urged Mr Putin to allow the UN security Council to vote on the province's future "as soon as possible".

Western countries support a plan that would give the territory independence from Serbia, but Russia - which wields a veto in the council - says further negotiations are needed.

US missile defence graphic

The BBC's James Rodgers in Moscow says the question is putting pressure on relations between Russia and Nato at a time when they are already strained.

Earlier, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned Nato against steps that would compromise Russian security.

He said each side should avoid "taking any steps aimed at improving someone's security at the expense of the security of others".

As a compromise, Mr Putin has offered the US joint use of a Soviet-build radar base in Azerbaijan.

But US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said Washington viewed the offer as an additional capability, not a substitute for the plan.

Moscow has also voiced opposition to Nato's possible further eastward expansion to include more former Soviet states, such as Ukraine and Georgia.

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