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Belarus/Russia: NATO Expansion Plans Criticized

Minsk, 8 April 1997 (RFE/RL) - Russia and Belarus reaffirmed today a union treaty signed last week, and again repeated their opposition to NATO's plans for eastward expansion.

Speaking at an international conference in Minsk on the creation of a nuclear free zone in Central and Eastern Europe, Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov said NATO's planned expansion is "the biggest mistake since the end of the Cold War."

Belarus President Alyaksandr Lukashenka criticized the West for only promising, but not guaranteeing that nuclear weapons would not be deployed on the territory of prospective new NATO members.

Primakov and Lukashenka, who met earlier today, also said that the finishing touches had been put to a charter outlining the integration mechanism between their two countries. They also said the charter would be published in the press tomorrow.

A scaled-down version of a controversial original union treaty between Russian and Belarus was signed April 2. Russian President Boris Yeltsin promised that the accompanying charter would be submitted to public discussion over the next month.

Later today, Primakov arrived in Paris for two days of talks with French officials on NATO-Russia relations.