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Russia-NATO Council meeting to be held as scheduled - ministry


MOSCOW, April 24 (RIA Novosti) - A Russia-NATO Council ministerial-level meeting will be held as scheduled on May 19 in Brussels, a source in the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Friday.

The source stressed that the issue of Russia-NATO cooperation in the light of the alliance's planned military exercises in Georgia next month was still under question.

"Russia is categorically opposed to the military drills on Georgian territory as it illustrates direct support for an aggressor," he said.

This week Moscow officially informed the alliance that it was postponing a Russia-NATO Council heads of general staff meeting on May 7 over the exercises in Georgia.

The Cooperative Longbow 09/Cooperative Lancer 09 command-and-staff exercises will be held in Georgia from May 6 through June 1. They will not feature light or heavy weaponry, however.

NATO has said Russia is welcome to join the exercises, but it is unlikely Moscow will take up the offer.

President Dmitry Medvedev said last week that Russia "will be closely watching" the drills and would "if necessary, take appropriate decisions."

The drills are aimed at improving interoperability between NATO and partner countries, within the framework of Partnership for Peace, Mediterranean Dialogue and Istanbul Cooperation Initiative programs.

A total of 19 countries are set to participate: Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canada, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Georgia, Hungary, Greece, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Serbia, Spain, Macedonia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Britain, and the United States.

Russia and Georgia fought a five-day war last August over South Ossetia. Hostilities began when Georgian forces attacked the republic in an attempt to bring it back under central control.

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