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Mideast should become nuclear-free zone region - Russian official

MOSCOW, May 19 (KUNA) -- Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov stressed the importance of turning the Middle East region into a nuclear-weapons-free zone, calling Arab nations to join all international treaties that prevent the proliferation of these mass destructive weapons.
"It would be a positive step in the right direction if all Arab countries put all its nuclear weapons under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and join all treaties that call for the prevention the proliferation of these weapons such as the Non-Proliferations of Nuclear weapons treaty, the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Biological Weapons Convention," Antonov said in an exclusive statement to KUNA Monday.
The Russian official pointed out that there are many internal and external factors that are constantly affecting the geopolitical situation in the Middle East region.
On promoting security in the Middle East region, Antonov pointed out that Arab countries should work toward enhancing "equal dialogue." He said "the more countries discuss crises in the region, the more solutions that could come up to ensure establishing security in the region." He added that Russia is working to promote cooperation with the Middle East countries in the realms of military and technology. He pointed out that his country is seeking to establish more naval bases in the region, adding that "Russia's aim is not to provide the regions with weapons as means of attack but rather as means of defense." On the situation in Afghanistan, Antonov said that his country is closely watching the developing situation in Afghanistan and its neighboring countries, expressing fears that the situation in Afghanistan would get worse after the US troops withdrew completely out of there.
On central Asian countries, especially Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, the Russian official said that his country is exerting all efforts to ensure the security of these countries through the already existing Russian military bases there, providing military technological assistance and raising the efficiency of its military personnel in its Kant Air Base in Kyrgyzstan and its military forces in Tajikistan.
Antonov pointed out that Russia will host on May 23rd an international security conference to tackle detrimental effects of uprisings in the Middle East region and the consequences of the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan; which are key issues to international security. Despite the importance of discussing these issue, representatives from the NATO and some of the western countries would not be attending the conference as a result of the ongoing Ukrainian crisis. Antonov explained that the Ukrainian situation has negatively affected military cooperation between Russia and the West.
The Russian official shed light on the problematic issue of Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) between Russia and the United States, saying that Russian believes that ABM shield, which the US is building in Eastern Europe, is meant to stop ballistic missiles, the only missiles that are owned by Russia.
He added that Moscow believes that the US has intensified its effort to create a Europe-based anti-missile shield and is increasingly certain that it is targeting Russia. If the situation deteriorates, US-Russia nuclear reduction agreements may be at risk.
He concluded by saying that it would be unacceptable to strengthen one country's defense system by weakening other countries' defense mechanisms. (end) as.nfm