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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

NATO, Russia Talk Terrorism

ReutersDefense Minister Sergei Ivanov, recovering from a sports injury, with NATO Secretary-General George Robertson
ROME -- NATO hopes the common threat of terrorism will improve its relations with Moscow, but Russian prickliness was clearly evident at a joint conference Monday in Rome.

Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov warned that differences over Chechnya could mean that "all the talking about our unity and solidarity may remain empty words."

He was defensive about Russia's relationship with Iran. As neighbors, Russia and Iran have "perfectly normal commercial relations," he said.

The NATO-Russia conference was aimed at exploring ways to work together to combat terrorism. "Intensified NATO-Russia cooperation is a central pillar of the global struggle against terrorism," said NATO Secretary-General George Robertson.

Both sides readily agreed that terrorism is bigger than ever. The problem is agreeing on common enemies, beyond the al-Qaida network.

Russia resents the lack of international sympathy for its battle with Chechen rebels. Ivanov scolded European officials for giving a "hearty welcome" to Chechen representatives recently.

Ivanov said Monday that Russia is downsizing its contingent of peacekeepers in Kosovo to free up troops needed at home, Reuters reported.

He said Moscow planned to cut its some 1,800 soldiers to 1,000.

"Over the past year there has been no real armed struggle. There is no resistance. We can't see much sense in staying there," Ivanov said.

"The decision to cut our contingent should in no way be interpreted as a lack of faith in NATO, but it is time for police not military action."