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A view of today's Ukraine-NATO meeting 22 February 2005 -- President Viktor Yushchenko said today that Ukraine will press for closer ties with NATO and the European Union as part of his country's new drive to integrate with the West.

He described this as a key policy goal ahead of a meeting with leaders from the 26-country defense alliance in Brussels.

"Our course towards integration with European and Euro-Atlantic structures will from now on determine the strategy and tactics of our policy," Yushchenko said. "We believe that Ukraine's participation in the Euro-Atlantic community of democratic peoples will strengthen peace and security on the whole European continent. We are ready to make every effort to achieve this noble goal."

Afterward, Yushchenko said that Ukraine is seeking long-term integration into NATO and the European Union.

But he also stressed that Russia remains Ukraine's "strategic partner."

Yushchenko is the only leader from outside NATO invited to meet alliance leaders today.

NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer told Yushchenko the alliance is prepared to back Ukraine's efforts.

(Reuters/AFP/AP)
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