As early as in 2003, NATO will be able to set up an international agency that will handle security matters and, apart from NATO countries, will involve Russia, Army General Valery Manilov, former first deputy chief of staff of the Russian Armed Forces and currently a member of the Federation Council, or the upper parliamentary house, opined Thursday. All the organizational, legal or any other aspects of the establishment of such a body can be settled within 2002, according to the general. A related draft decision to be adopted by the heads of state and government of NATO's 19 member countries and Russia can well be prepared by 2003, believes Manilov. To promote legitimacy of the would-be agency is a document which must be ratified by the member countries' parliaments, believe the Russian top. The Russia-NATO Founding Act should be preserved so far, believes the general. We should take prompt and consistent actions implementing the provisions which have been much talked about but never realized, said the military. By enacting opportunities provided by the Founding Act, we will set good prerequisites for adopting a new legally bound document setting up an agency that will deal with security problems, according to the Russian military. The problem is going to be debated in all the bodies of the Russia-NATO Permanent Joint Council in Brussels, Washington and Moscow both at bilateral and multilateral consultations. The consultations will aim to find a format of such an agency where "19+1" would be transformed into "20". Russia must have an equal right to assess situations and take a decision either to counter or prevent the existing or potential threats, and to jointly carry out the decisions, emphasized General Manilov.
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