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Russia and EU pledge cooperation

Putin has called for a
Putin has called for a "common European security space"  

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- Russia and the EU have agreed to hold monthly consultations on foreign and defence policy, in a boost to their political relations in the wake of the U.S. terror attacks.

The development was announced on Wednesday by Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt following a summit in Brussels attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin and members of the European Union and NATO.

"We have decided now that this should be a structured dialogue with monthly meetings between the (EU) Political and Security Committee and the Russian Federation," Verhofstadt told a joint news conference.

Putin, in a joint statement pledging to cooperate in the fight against terrorism, said: "Now that we are building a new European security architecture together, the interaction between Russia and the EU is especially appropriate."

CNN's Robin Oakley: Putin's ambitions in Europe  

The Russian leader called for "an entirely new look" at NATO enlargement, saying the alliance was becoming a political organisation and Moscow might ease its opposition to NATO's expansion if it was more fully involved in consultations.

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Putin, who on Tuesday pledged to take Russian's cooperation with the EU and NATO to a new level in the fight against international terrorism, said: "We consider this proposal extremely timely and appropriate.

"After the tragic events of September 11 the European community felt an urgent need to have another look at the existing regional security structures.

"We share the serious and responsible approach by our partners to addressing these issues."

Speaking through an interpreter, he added: "It is quite obvious that it is high time to proceed with the joint-collaboration of specific measures and in this regard this summit is an important step forward.

"We do hope that the monthly consultative meetings will lead to a permanent body addressing security issues of concern to all states in the world."

CNN's European Political Editor Robin Oakley said: "President Putin has been indicating while he has been in Brussels that his security services don't need any further evidence of the involvement of Osama bin Laden in the terrorism in the United States.

"He's fully satisfied on that and he's been talking to the EU leaders about getting the maximum degree of cooperation in fighting terrorism.

"What they are going to do in practical terms is more on money laundering, countering drug trafficking, countering the arms traffic, border issues, policing methods and there is going to be great deal of further contact to come on all those subjects."

On Tuesday, Putin said Russia was ready to play its role in the fight against terrorists who he called a "bacteria" living off the bodies of their host states.

While Putin has ruled out Russian military involvement in a U.S. strike in Afghanistan, where the Taliban regime shelters bin Laden, he is offering a wide range of cooperation and is encouraging former Soviet nations in Central Asia to do the same.

"We are ready to strengthen our cooperation with NATO and European military structures, to give a new quality to our relationship," he said.

In other developments, it has been announced that British Prime Minister Tony Blair will meet India's Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh in London on Wednesday for discussions on the global coalition against terror.

Blair's spokesman said the meeting with Singh, at Downing Street office, will follow talks between the Indian minister and UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.

Downing Street, which also said Blair had spoken by telephone to Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on Wednesday to discuss the terrorism crisis, has not commented on reports that Blair is to undertake a foreign tour, including Pakistan.

The Pakistani Foreign Ministry said it was making plans for a Friday visit by Blair. The sources did not say how long would Blair stay in Islamabad, but added that he was expected to discuss with Pakistan the U.S.-led campaign to hunt down bin Laden.

Meanwhile, the Dutch government says it had frozen two bank accounts with a total of $500,000 suspected of being linked to international terrorism.

Finance Minister Gerrit Zalm informed Washington the Dutch government has taken its first action in response to a U.S. effort to stem the finances of the worldwide organisation led by bin Laden.

The ministry said in a statement that investigations were continuing into a blacklist of 400 names circulated by the U.S. Treasury.

In another development, France said it would meet a U.S. request for naval cooperation in the Indian Ocean and has approved the use of its airspace by U.S. military aircraft, a spokeswoman for President Jacques Chirac said on Wednesday.


• European Union
• Russian Government

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