NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.(Xinhua/Cristian Cristel/IANS). Image Source: IANS News

Brussels, Feb 12 : The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has no intention of deploying new ground-based nuclear missiles in Europe in the event that a Soviet-era treaty aimed at eliminating short and medium-range missiles is abandoned, the head of the Alliance said on Tuesday.

Jens Stoltenberg told reporters in Brussels ahead of a meeting with NATO Defence Ministers that Russia's "violation" of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty) would be one of the topics on the agenda.

"We do not intend to deploy new ground-based nuclear missiles in Europe. At the same time, we remain committed to meaningful arms control and non-proliferation efforts," Stoltenberg was quoted as saying by Efe news.

"NATO does not want a new arms race, because that would be in nobody's interest," added Stoltenberg.

The NATO chief said the US and other allies had called on Moscow to abide by the treaty "over many years" and that was why Washington recently announced its intention to abandon the treaty within six months.

"We all know that a treaty that is only respected by one side cannot keep us safe," said the politician.

He urged Russia to "take the responsible path" and "return to compliance and save the INF Treaty", something that was being offered as a "last opportunity".

The Norwegian politician acknowledged, however, that NATO allies were "planning for a world without the INF Treaty".

NATO Defence Ministers will meet in the Belgian capital on Wednesday and Thursday. Stoltenberg said other topics on the agenda would be NATO missions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Kosovo.

Ministers would also attend a session on NATO-EU cooperation and EU defence efforts, the head of the Alliance said.

"Of course, EU efforts on defence cannot replace NATO," he said, adding that any EU efforts must complement and not compete with existing ones.

The chief ended his speech by welcoming the Defence Minister of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Radmila Sekerinska, whose country joined a NATO meeting for the first time after member states last week signed an accession protocol for the eastern European nation.

The INF Treaty was signed on December 8, 1987 between the US and the Soviet Union, an agreement aimed to eliminate short-range missiles (covering a range of up to 1,000 kilometres) and intermediate ones (up to 5,500 km).

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