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Russian, US Military Chiefs Meet in Helsinki

The chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff met Tuesday in Helsinki with his Russian counterpart, in the highest-level contact between the two countries since Russia launched military operations against Georgia in August.

U.S. officials say Admiral Michael Mullen and Russian General Nikolai Makarov held talks after a luncheon hosted by Finland's defense chief outside the Finnish capital.

Neither side offered details of the meeting. But a Pentagon spokesman, Geoff Morrell, called the meeting a "productive, business-like conversation." Russian news reports quote General Makarov as saying the two sides agreed to resume discussing major military issues by telephone or in person, when necessary.

The Russian incursion into Georgia strained Russian ties with Washington, which has pushed NATO - over strenuous Russian objections - to move Georgia toward alliance membership.

Russian-U.S. relations have also been tested by a U.S. plan to install a missile defense system in eastern Europe.

Russia strongly opposes the U.S. plan, saying it will destabilize Europe and lead to a new arms race.

The Bush administration says the shield is aimed at protecting U.S. interests and its allies from possible missile attacks by Iran.

In a separate development, Georgian opposition leaders have called on supporters to rally in Tbilisi November 7, to mark the first anniversary of a police crackdown on anti-government protesters.