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RUSSIAN MINISTER TO SIGN NATO PACT

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Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev will sign NATO's Partnership for Peace scheme on closer military links with the West next Wednesday, an alliance spokesman said Friday.

The announcement signals a possible easing of tensions between NATO and Russia. Moscow has been locked in disputes with the alliance over key European security issues and has demanded special ties with NATO reflecting its status as a major power.Diplomats said Secretary of State Warren Christopher would also meet Kozyrev in Brussels next Wednesday and that other NATO foreign ministers may attend the meeting.

"We have been informed by the Russian embassy that Foreign Minister Kozyrev is coming to NATO headquarters to sign Partnership for Peace on the morning of Wednesday, June 22," an alliance spokesman said.

NATO invited Moscow earlier this week to start immediate talks on the troubled relationship between Russia and the West.

Russia had postponed signing the partnership earlier this year, saying it wanted recognition of its special status in European security from the 16-nation Western alliance.

Twenty other countries, many of them from Eastern Europe, have already signed the partnership.

NATO has offered Russia a broader dialogue on issues such as nuclear arms and Bosnia as a sign it recognizes Russia's size and weight.

But the alliance has made clear the broader relationship beyond Partnership for Peace will be limited and that Moscow cannot expect to influence or veto NATO decisions.