NATO defence ministers' meeting to start in Polish capital

A two-day-long unofficial meeting of NATO countries' defence ministers is beginning in the Polish capital on Tuesday, the second part of which will be attended by Russian Defence Minister Igor Ivanov on September 25th.

On the first day the ministers will consider issues of expanding NATO's powers to confront new challenges, modernizing armaments, and structural alterations to be introduced in the military constituent of the pact, Jerzy Szmajdzinski, Polish Minister of Defence, said earlier. Participants in such meetings do not make concrete decisions, but set the stage for their further implementation, Szmajdzinski pointed out. According to him, the Warsaw work will be made use of during NATO's Prague summit on November 21-22nd.

On the second day of the unofficial meeting, with the participation of Sergei Ivanov, the officials will discuss issues of global and regional securities, the fight against international terrorism, proliferation of mass destruction weapons, and Russian-NATO cooperation.

The ministerial meeting has not begun yet, but it has already been overshadowed by the conflict between the US and the FRG, caused by pointblank anti-American statements, made by certain German social-democrats during their election campaign, and Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's critics of the US military plans with regard to Iraq.

Pentagon head Donald Ramsfield, who arrived in Warsaw earlier, announced on Monday evening that he did not plan to meet there his German counterpart Peter Struck. In his estimation, the German election campaign "spoilt the countries' mutual relations." Polish President Aleksander Kwasnievski, who had tried to settle the conflict, admitted after negotiating with Ramsfield that a meeting between the two ministers in Warsaw stood small chances.

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