Brussels, 12 June 1997 (RFE/RL) - U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen today informed the NATO allies of President Bill Clinton's decision that the U.S. favors inviting only three new members -- Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic -- into the alliance next month.
He made the announcement to NATO defense ministers meeting in Brussels, shortly after the U.S. position was announced in Washington. British Defence Minister George Robertson told reporters that the announcement was "pretty significant and will have a big effect on those who are here."
Several European NATO members have called for Romania and Slovenia also to be invited into the Alliance in its first round of expansion.
The NATO defense ministers are meeting for the last time before a summit in Madrid on July 8-9 at which NATO will formally announce which former Communist countries will be invited to join in the first wave.
In other news out of the Brussels meeting, Cohen said that the U.S. and France have dropped attempts to resolve a long-running dispute over comman of NATO's strategic southern flank.
At today's gathering, plans for a Russia-NATO council also were due to be discussed. The alliance and Moscow agreed to form the council after lengthy talks aimed at easing Russian concerns over NATO expansion.