News in Brief

Yushchenko Touts NATO

KIEV -- Ukraine sees joining NATO as vital to its security, President Viktor Yushchenko said Sunday in a speech bound to antagonize Russia.

Marking 17 years of Ukrainian independence, Yushchenko said Ukraine must also increase its own defenses -- a clear swipe at Russia. In a congratulatory message to mark the day, President Dmitry Medvedev called on Ukraine not to spoil their historically close ties.

Yushchenko's speech in Kiev's Independence Square was followed by the first display in years of Ukraine's military hardware. (Reuters)

Officers Killed in Chechnya

Two senior officers were killed when their armored vehicle was hit by explosives in Chechnya on Sunday, Interfax reported.

The major and a lieutenant-colonel died of their wounds and two other officers were injured after a bomb and gun attack on their three-vehicle convoy near the village of Agishty.

Gunman also fired on the house of a Federation Council senator in Ingushetia, but no one was injured, Interfax reported Sunday. (Reuters)

Turkey to Discuss Alliance

ANKARA -- Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan will meet Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov next month to discuss creating an alliance of Caucasus countries that would include Georgia and Russia, a Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman said Friday.

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has proposed the Stability and Cooperation Platform, which would comprise Turkey, Russia, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. The bloc would deal with bilateral and security issues.

Turkish and Russian officials will meet this week to prepare the ground for the talks between Babacan and Lavrov. (Reuters)

Iran Sees Georgia Benefit

TEHRAN, Iran -- The conflict between Russia and Georgia may indirectly benefit Iran by making it more difficult for the West to reach consensus with Moscow on new UN sanctions, the daily Iran News said Sunday.

Russia, a veto-wielding member of the UN Security Council, has long been a reluctant backer of the U.S.-led push to pressure Iran with sanctions, although Moscow has eventually backed three sanctions resolutions after watering them down.

Iran News said the Georgia conflict may now make it more difficult for the United States and its Western allies to secure Russian backing for a fourth round of sanctions. (Reuters)