NATO respects Russia's position : Special envoy

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Moscow, Apr 7 (UNI) Russia's special envoy to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin today said the Western alliance was now taking Moscow's opinion into consideration when making decisions.

''I cannot say that the situation has turned completely to our advantage. However, Russia has become a key participant in NATO's decision making, which is a crucial result,'' Mr Rogozin told the government-controlled daily Rossiiskaya Gazeta, published today.

Last week, at its summit in Bucharest (Romania), NATO members, decided to postpone offering former Soviet republics of Georgia and Ukraine the chance to join the alliance's Membership Action Plan (MAP), but promised to review the decision in December.

Mr Rogozin criticised Georgia's President Mikheil Saakashvili for his reluctance to solve territorial disputes between two breakaway regions -Abkhazia and South Ossetia- peacefully.

''Saakashvili wants to provoke NATO into participating in military operations far beyond alliance's borders, in the South Caucasus. I have real doubts that the alliance needs this,'' he said.

He also doubted that Ukrainian President , Viktor Yushchenko, would sit at the negotiating table with NATO leaders as an equal partner as long as George W. Bush is the US President.

''I don't think either it will happen in the future. Any country's accession to NATO should follow a referendum. All Ukrainians should make the decision,'' he said.

Mr Rogozin also said Russia and the West had brought their positions closer on Afghanistan at the summit, where Moscow and the alliance agreed to allow non-lethal goods for NATO troops in Afghanistan to pass through Russian territory.

''All this is a proof that we act dynamically and consistently where our interests coincide with those of the alliance,'' he noted.

UNI XC SZ PM1630

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