A NATO spokesman said Monday that people should "not be too gloomy" about the prospects for the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law suspending Moscow`s participation in the treaty, according to Xinhua.

    "There are even now high-level discussions under way between the NATO members to find a way in which all the parties can come together to ratify the treaty and allow the other four (Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia and Slovenia) to fully participate in it," James Appathurai told reporters at the NATO headquarters in Brussels.

    "I think we should not be too gloomy about the CFE treaty," he said, adding that what ever happened after Dec. 12, there was a shared desire from the sides to have the treaty to take effect.

    The law signed by Putin was unanimously approved by both houses of the Russian parliament and will come into force on Dec. 12.

    The suspension of the CFE treaty meant that Russia would temporarily stop providing information, receiving international inspectors and allowing inspections. During this period, Russia will not be bound by any commitment to conventional armaments.

    NATO Assistant Secretary General Martin Erdman, at the joint press conference with Appathurai, said NATO regretted Russia`s latest move on CFE treaty as it is a "cornerstone" of European security and is of very high "practical and symbolic value."

    But he said it remains to be seen whether Russia will fully withdraw from all the practical steps such as information exchange and military inspections.

    The original CFE treaty was signed in December 1990 by 16 NATO countries and six Warsaw Pact members. The document set equal limits for the sides on five categories of conventional weapons - battle tanks, armored combat vehicles, artillery pieces, combat aircraft and attack helicopters.

    The modified version of the treaty was signed on Nov. 19, 1999 by all NATO countries except Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia and Slovenia.

    However, only Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan have ratified the modified version of the document. NATO countries have insisted on Russia`s withdrawal from Moldova and Georgia as a condition for their ratification of the modified CFE Treaty.

    The issue of the CFE treaty is expected to be discussed during the NATO-Russia Council meeting scheduled for Dec. 7 at the NATO headquarters, when the NATO foreign ministers will meet, who will also take part in a session of the NATO-Ukraine Commission, and a dialogue with seven Mediterranean countries.

    According to Erdman, the issue of Kosovo, Afghanistan, the situation in Serbia and the West Balkan situation will dominate the agenda of the NATO foreign ministers` meeting.