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NATO: Canada Backs, Germany 'Understands' France's Position

Ottawa, 4 July 1997 (RFE/RL) - Canada is supporting France's demand that five East European nations should be invited to begin membership talks with NATO when the 16-nation alliance holds its summit meeting in Madrid on Tuesday and Wednesday.

A senior Canadian official told journalists in Ottawa late yesterday that his government intends to lobby strongly at the meeting for NATO to invite Romania and Slovenia as well as the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland.

The U.S. has consistently said it will back invitations only to the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland in NATO's first wave of membership talks. Analysts say that since NATO decisions are taken by consensus, the U.S. position is likely to prevail at Madrid.

Germany indicated yesterday it has still not established what position it will take on the issue at Madrid. But Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel did say he understood the French demand and that the U.S. has been too categorical on the matter.

Kinkel spoke after meeting in Bonn with his French counterpart Hubert Vedrine. On Tuesday, after meeting with President Emil Constantinescu in Bonn, Chancellor Helmut Kohl said he sympathized with Romania's NATO candidacy and supported it.