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Kozyrev: NATO program cannot suit Russia

MOSCOW, May 7 -- Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev turned up the volume Saturday on his nation's refusal to join NATO's Partnership for Peace program, asserting that the U.S.-initiated plan for European security 'cannot suit Russia.'

'We feel there should not be a distortion towards NATO-centrism or NATO-mania,' Kozyrev told Russian news agencies Itar-Tass and Interfax, adding that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is 'only one of many' bodies charged with keeping the peace in Europe.

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Kozyrev's tone echoes that of other high-level Russian officials who have clarified Moscow's stance on Partnership for Peace in recent days, and his statements were in tune with a trend of reminders to the West of Russia's superpower ambitions.

The Russian Foreign Minister called for 'a more serious program of cooperation' with NATO, featuring 'special conditions' which would 'correspond to Russia's status.'

Kozyrev said Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev will present an outline of Moscow's conception of European security to the other NATO defense ministers on May 24 in Brussels.

Russia displayed wavering support for Partnership for Peace when it was first announced last summer, but vacillated for months on whether it would sign onto the plan, which is opposed by nationalists in the Russian Parliament.

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Russia began to sour on NATO and move away from joining Partnership for Peace last month, after NATO air strikes on Bosnian Serb positions, which Russia felt were undertaken without necessary discussion with Moscow.

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