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NATO: Summit Debates Missile Defense

Brussels, 13 June 2001 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. President George W. Bush said he believed he had made progress during today's summit on persuading the allies to accept his controversial proposal for missile defense. However, there were signs of resistance from some NATO allies. French and German leaders renewed their concerns today about U.S. President George W. Bush's plans for a missile defense.

French President Jacques Chirac warned against Bush's call for the scrapping of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty to allow for the U.S. missile defense. Chirac called the ABM Treaty a "pillar" of strategic balance and international stability.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said there are still questions about the technical feasibility of the U.S. missile defense proposal. He also raised concerns about the consequences for non-proliferation treaties if the U.S. goes forward with its missile plan.

In his remarks, Bush urged the NATO allies to modernize their forces to prepare for threats they could face in the future.

Concurrently, NATO Secretary-General George Robertson announced at the summit today that at least some candidate countries will be invited to join the alliance at its summit next year in Prague.

Robertson gave no further details. But he told journalists that the "zero option" of postponing enlargement was "off the table."

In other developments, French President Jacques Chirac also raised the prospect of NATO intervention in the Macedonian conflict with ethnic Albanian rebels. He told the Brussels summit that the alliance should rule out nothing in order to prevent a new cycle of violence in the Balkans.

Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou told Greek radio that the deployment of an international peacekeeping force may be unavoidable. He added that such a force would need the approval of the Macedonian government.

Secretary-General Robertson announced today that he will travel to Skopje tomorrow to discuss the crisis. Robertson reiterated NATO support for the Macedonian government.

"Heads of state and government reaffirmed their full support for the government in Skopje and their complete and total rejection of the attacks on this democratic government."

Reports say a fragile truce between government forces and ethnic Albanian rebels was holding for a third day today. Politicians representing Macedonia's majority Slavs and ethnic Albanians are due to open talks tomorrow aimed at ending the conflict.

Army spokesman Blagoja Markovski says no military operations occurred last night or this morning. But Macedonian state radio says security forces and rebels exchanged fire overnight near a village some 20 kilometers northeast of Skopje.

For more on the current situation in Macedonia, please see Macedonia: NATO Confirms Non-Military Role As Shaky Cease-Fire Continues.