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NATO-Russia Talks Make Little Progress On Missile Defense


NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen (right) meets with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Brussels on April 22.
BRUSSELS -- NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen says that the latest meeting of the NATO-Russia Council "maintained an active dialogue" but did not make significant progress on the key issue of missile defense.

NATO foreign ministers met in Brussels on April 23 and were joined by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Lavrov said Moscow was studying changes to the U.S. missile-defense program, but still wanted guarantees that the system would not be used against Russia.

The NATO ministers earlier discussed the situation in Syria, and Rasmussen said the alliance was committed to protecting all of its members, including Turkey.

Rasmussen said NATO was "extremely concerned" about the possible use of chemical weapons in Syria.

Lavrov said any reports that chemical weapons have been used in Syria should be investigated carefully, noting that prior allegations were proven wrong.

Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry held bilateral talks on the sidelines of the meeting.

Those talks were expected to focus on Syria, in the wake of Kerry's recent visit to the Middle East.

Talking To Taliban

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, speaking on April 23 before the talks began, expressed cautious support for expanded political contacts between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

"I am not going to guess about motives and intentions within the Taliban leadership. However, I commend all efforts to try and find a political settlement," Rasmussen said.

He emphasized that the process that is being spearheaded by the Afghan government is based on respect for the Afghan Constitution and human rights.

But Rasmussen added that the Taliban and others involved in the peace process must cut all links to terrorists groups.

"Having said that, I still think that the best way to facilitate a political process is to keep up the military pressure, so that the enemies of Afghanistan clearly realize that they have no chance whatsoever to prevail in the battlefield and in that respect, I am encouraged by the progress we have seen within the Afghan security forces," he said.

With reporting by Reuters, ITAR-TASS, dpa, Interfax, and AFP
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