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NATO chief to visit Russia for summit, Afghan talks

NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen will visit Russia next week for talks on deepening Russian cooperation on Afghanistan and lay the groundwork for a major summit, his spokesman said Wednesday.

Rasmussen will meet President Dmitry Medvedev on November 5 to see if the two sides can “move forward” on a NATO request for Moscow to provide around 20 helicopters to Afghan forces, said NATO spokesman James Appathurai.

The discussion will also touch on the possibility of a “broadening” of a transit arrangement in which Russia allows NATO to use its territory to ferry non-lethal supplies for troops in Afghanistan via rail, he said.

“There will be work to see if we can enhance our cooperation in training counter-narcotics officials,” Appathurai added, noting that Russia is already providing such training outside Moscow.

Rasmussen’s visit will take place ahead of a summit between the 28-nation Western military alliance and Russia in Lisbon on November 20, right after NATO leaders hold their own meeting.

NATO leaders are expected to agree at their summit on the need for the military alliance to launch an anti-missile shield to protect their populations.

Appathurai reiterated that NATO would invite Russia to cooperate in the project, which will be a topic of discussion between Rasmussen and Russian officials next week.