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NATO Agrees to Thaw in Contacts With Russia

NATO foreign ministers have agreed to gradually resume contacts with Russia, frozen after Russian military forces invaded Georgia in August.

NATO chief Jaap de Hoop Scheffer announced the decision Tuesday, as NATO ministers met in Brussels for two days of wide-ranging talks. He said negotiations with Moscow will take place at the ambassador level.

NATO ministers were also reviewing alliance needs in Afghanistan, and encouraging Georgia and Ukraine to pursue major political and economic reforms, with the aim of eventual entry into the alliance. The ministers are not expected to offer either country access to a membership action plan at this time. The envoys also agreed to boost military ties and anti-terrorist cooperation with Israel.

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili earlier Tuesday urged the West not to return to "business as usual" with Russia, without calling Moscow to account for its military invasion August seventh.

Mr. Saakashvili's plea came in an essay that appeared in The Wall Street Journal.

While suspending partnership talks with Moscow, many of the same NATO member-governments also criticized Georgia's decision to send troops to regain control of the pro-Russian breakaway territory of South Ossetia.

Russia said its invasion was a response to the Georgian military push.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.