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NATO: Alliance To Seek Closer Ties With Partner Countries

Reykjavik, 15 May 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Foreign ministers of the 19 NATO member countries held talks in Iceland yesterday and today with ministers from NATO partner countries and countries that want to join the military alliance. NATO Secretary-General George Robertson said the gathering in Reykjavik is expected to "set the tone" and provide guidance for the NATO summit in Prague in November, when the extent of NATO's next round of expansion will be announced.

Robertson said NATO is seeking to develop closer ties with nonmember partners.

The Partner Countries Council is comprised of countries from North America, Europe, and Central Asia.

The Reykjavik talks included a separate meeting between U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and the foreign ministers from the "Vilnius-10" group, comprising the nine NATO accession candidates and Croatia. Powell told them to use their time "wisely" before this autumn's NATO summit in Prague.

A U.S. official told RFE/RL that during the brief meeting with the Vilnius group foreign ministers, Powell reiterated U.S. support for a "robust" round of enlargement at the November Prague summit.

Powell said at a news conference yesterday that the U.S. supports an enlargement that welcomes more rather than fewer new members.

The U.S. official said Powell told the Vilnius group officials that Washington has made no decision on who will be admitted to NATO.