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Saturday, 17 November, 2001, 02:33 GMT
Blair pushes Russia-Nato ties
Tony Blair (left) and Vladimir Putin
Officials say Russia is not being offered Nato membership
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair is proposing a fundamental overhaul of the relationship between Nato and Russia.

He has written to other Nato member states and Russian President Vladimir Putin with new proposals regarding relations between the alliance and Russia.

British officials say Mr Blair's ideas reflect the changing political atmosphere since the 11 September terror attacks in America.

Workers clear rubble at ground zero
Relations have changed since 11 September
BBC defence correspondent Jonathan Marcus says British officials insist Russia is not being offered Nato membership, nor would it take part in Nato's integrated military command.

Among the proposals is the creation of a new Russia-North Atlantic Council, in which 20 governments would discuss a variety of security issues as equals.

The council would replace the Permanent Joint Council set up in 1997 as a consultative forum between the alliance and Moscow.

Some issues would still be debated within Nato itself.

Security matters

But our correspondent says the new body could deal with security matters that include Russia, such as questions of arms proliferation, peace support operations and so on.

He says the Nato-Russia Permanent Joint Council is seen by both sides as being a product of its times; the immediate aftermath of the Cold War.

The attacks of 11 September have ushered in a whole new relationship and Mr Blair wants to seize the moment and to enshrine this new mood in new institutions, he added.

There have been at least seven discussions between Mr Blair and Mr Putin since the attacks on New York and Washington.

Jonathan Marcus said Mr Blair was hoping for the new Nato-Russia institutions to be established before the alliance's summit in Prague next year, when members may have to tackle the question of the Baltic States' membership of Nato.

See also:

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
17 Nov 01 | UK Politics
Mowlam savages 'presidential' Blair
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