Russia to appoint firebrand politician to NATO-source

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MOSCOW, Oct 24 (Reuters) President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree appointing a nationalist politician as Russia's permanent representative to NATO, a source close to the situation told Reuters today.

Putin signed a decree yesterday appointing Dmitry Rogozin, the flamboyant former head of Russia's Motherland party, to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, said the source, who asked not to be named.

''Rogozin has been appointed permanent representative to NATO,'' the source said. ''The decree was signed by Putin yesterday.'' Rogozin, who calls himself parliament's ''chief diplomat'', has called for Russia to rearm to counter the threat from the Western military alliance, whose expansion he said placed a foreign army at Russia's borders.

A Kremlin spokesman declined to comment. The decree only becomes effective on its official publication.

When asked by Reuters whether he had been appointed, Rogozin said: ''I do not have any official information about this, so I can say nothing at the moment.'' He was quoted in 2004 by local news agencies as saying that NATO was a U.S.-dominated body that carried out ''the rather aggressive interests of the United States.'' NATO is viewed with great suspicion in Russia, where officials say expansion eastwards shows the alliance is being used by the United States and top European powers to counter Russian influence.

Rogozin made his Motherland party highly popular with attacks on the West and calls to curb illegal immigration.

He resigned as leader of his party last year under what activists said was pressure from the Kremlin disturbed by his popularity. And he was featured in election campaign advertisements in 2005 that a Moscow court said incited racism.

Rogozin, 43, was born into a Moscow military family and studied journalism at Moscow University.

He worked as Putin's representative in negotiations with the European Union over the status of Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave, after EU expansion.

Konstantin Totsky, the current permanent representative, was appointed by Putin in March 2003. He is 57.

REUTERS AE KN2109

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