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Europe: NATO Ministers To Discuss Bosnia, Russia

Brussels, 17 December 1996 (RFE/RL) -- NATO defense ministers opened a two-day meeting today in Brussels to review internal alliance reform, approve a new peace force for Bosnia and try to push Russia to agree an exchange of military liasion officers.

Russian Defense Minister Igor Rodionov will attend the meeting tomorrow. Last week, Russia agreed to open talks on a new charter to govern all aspects of its relationship with NATO, which is expanding to include some countries of the former Warsaw Pact.

NATO is interested in moving plans forward to exchange military officers at the top levels of NATO's and Moscow's political and military commands. But those plans have been stalled by the dispute over NATO expansion.

In Bosnia, meanwhile, NATO and troop-contributing countries outside the alliance -- including Russia -- have agreed to replace the current Implementation Force (IFOR) with a smaller Stabilisation Force (SFOR). IFOR's mandate expires on Friday. Defense ministers in Brussels are expected to take a final look at the military plans, including SFOR's rules of engagement.