BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) _ Senior Russian military officers will be permanently posted at major NATO commands under an agreement reached today by NATO defense ministers and Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev.

Under the agreement, a senior Russian officer would remain posted at NATO's military headquarters outside Mons, Belgium, and at each of the alliance's three regional commands responsible for the northern, central and southern sections of Western Europe.

``Grachev has accepted this. He replied positively this morning to this request and he went further,'' said a NATO official who attended the meeting and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The 16 NATO defense ministers had proposed institutionalizing a relationship begun between NATO and Russia during the Bosnia peacekeeping deployment that started last December. It has involved the assignment of a senior Russian officer at the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, or SHAPE, as well as commanders and ground troops working with NATO forces in Bosnia.

After accepting the NATO proposal, Grachev said he wanted to have liaison officers posted at the so-called ``major subordinate commands'' based in England, The Netherlands, and Italy. The ministers accepted this proposal, according to the NATO official. Grachev also requested Russian participation in combined joint task force operations organized by NATO.

``There is an aspiration for deeper and closer contacts with us. Russia is ready for that,'' Grachev said after the meeting.

NATO Secretary General Javier Solana said the meeting reflected a transformed relationship between Russia and an alliance once devoted almost exclusively to thwarting the threat to the West posed by Moscow.

``We have a new NATO. We have a new Russia. We need new relations and we have one aim, which is the security and stability of Europe,'' Solana said.

Among other things, Grachev offered no objections when NATO ministers urged the Russian military leader to continue the Russian commitment to the Bosnia peace mission through the completion of the peace Implementation Force, or IFOR, mission at the end of the year.

But Grachev also repeated his opposition to NATO expansion into Central and Eastern Europe. The NATO official described Grachev as civil and diplomatic in demeanor but ``pretty tough'' on the question of NATO expansion, predicting it would lead to divisions and a deterioration of security in Europe.

The NATO official said defense ministers view as a positive sign Russia's continued willingness to work with NATO despite its concerns about expansion of the alliance.

The idea of a permanent Russian military representation in NATO's command structure was raised Thursday by Defense Secretary William Perry.

``NATO has a special relationship with Russia,'' Perry said. ``It is manifested in the operation we have going on in Bosnia.''

The plan to make the military liaison concept permanent represents a significant development given Russia's reluctance at the outset of the Bosnia mission to display close ties with NATO. At that time, Grachev insisted on a direct link between senior Russian commanders and their U.S. counterparts, essentially bypassing NATO.

A day before the parlay, the defense ministers said in a communique that they seek a lasting and cooperative relationship with Moscow.

``In keeping with Russia's weight and importance, the development of a stable and enduring partnership between NATO and Russia is an essential element in the security of the Euro-Atlantic area,'' the ministers said.

In their communique, the 16 NATO defense ministers said, ``We reaffirmed our commitment to open NATO to new members.''