Page last updated at 13:54 GMT, Friday, 4 April 2008 14:54 UK

Putin holds 'positive' Nato talks

Nato Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer (l) and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Bucharest, 4 April 2008
Nato signed a deal with Russia on freight transport to Afghanistan

Russian President Vladimir Putin has described as positive his talks with Nato leaders at a summit in Romania.

But he warned again that any Nato's expansion eastwards would be seen as a direct threat, referring to Georgia's and Ukraine's bids to join the bloc.

The outgoing Russian president also expressed concerns over plans to deploy a US missile defence system in Europe.

Nato chief Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said the talks with Mr Putin were positive but yielded no major breakthroughs.

The BBC's Jonathan Marcus reports from the Romanian capital of Bucharest that on the big issues, Russia and Nato do not see eye to eye.

But he says a measure of how far Russia is prepared move on those issues will become clear only when Mr Putin meets US President George W Bush at the Russian leader's Black Sea residence in Sochi this weekend.

On Friday, Mr Bush arrived in Croatia ahead of the talks in Sochi.

'Huge strategic mistake'

Mr Putin told reporters after the talks in Bucharest on Friday: "What is positive in today's dialogue is that our concerns about ensuring our own security... have been heard."

Parliament Palace in Bucharest

Mr Putin, who is stepping down as president in May, also said that he saw no possibility of a return to Cold War, arguing that it was "in nobody's interests".

But he again voiced strong opposition to any extension of Nato eastwards to include Ukraine and Georgia.

Nato has left open the option of taking in the two former Soviet republics as members, though it failed to agree a blueprint.

Moscow has said the alliance's promise of eventual membership to its neighbours is "a huge strategic mistake".

In Bucharest, Mr Putin also said the US missile shield in the Czech Republic and Poland - a plan that had been accepted by Nato - did not help build trust between the alliance and Russia.

Balkan expansion

Mr de Hoop Scheffer said the talks with Russia had been conducted "in a positive spirit".

The old Europe rightly asserted itself against the wishes of US President Bush
Commentary in Frankfurter Rundschau

But, he said: "I cannot report that this morning we saw stunning breakthroughs."

In a separate session between Nato and Ukraine, Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko sought to reassure Russia that its bid for membership was not targeted at any other country.

Mr de Hoop Scheffer said there was "not a sliver of a doubt" that Ukraine and Georgia would join Nato before long.

During the summit, Albania and Croatia were invited to join the 26-member alliance.

But Macedonia was told it must solve a dispute over its name with Greece before becoming a member.

Conciliatory gesture

It was President Putin's first and last appearance as president at a Nato summit.

He leaves office next month, though he is said to be expected to serve as prime minister under president-elect Dmitry Medvedev.

At the beginning of Russia's session with Nato on Friday, Russia signed an agreement to allow the transport of non-military freight to Nato forces in Afghanistan.

But the deal does not include the movement of troops or air transits that Nato had originally requested, Reuters news agency reported.

In a conciliatory gesture, Nato offered Moscow the chance to look at extending the US missile defence plan to Russia itself.

The agreement calls for steps to be taken to deploy a parallel Nato system to defend any countries not covered by the US scheme.

The US says it is needed to counter a potential threat from rogue states like Iran, but Moscow had expressed fears it could be used against Russia.

The Nato proposal to Russia came as US and Czech officials announced they had reached a deal to site a missile defence radar on Czech soil, while Poland and the US resumed talks in Warsaw on locating 10 interceptor missiles in Poland.

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