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Estonian President Calls for NATO Enlargement

Washington, June 27 (RFE/RL) - Estonian President Lennart Meri says security of the Baltic states was virtually the sole topic of discussions he and the presidents of Latvia and Lithuania had over the last four days in the United States.

The three presidents held talks with U.S. President Bill Clinton, Vice President Al Gore, Defense Secretary William Perry and members of Congress.

In an address in Washington today, Meri repeated his call for enlarging NATO to include the Baltic states. He said the West should provide the same kind of leadership and commitment to the Baltic states that it extended to West Berlin during the Cold War.

Meri described the Baltic states as the tripwire for the security of the European continent and the trans-Atlantic community just as he said Berlin was the place where the passions of East-West relations were played out.

Meri termed anachronistic and politically incorrect suggestions that NATO can not enlarge to include the Baltic states because they are part of Russia's traditional sphere of influence.

He also described as rascist arguments that the Baltic states can not join NATO because too many Russians live there. He argued that no-one had said that Germany should not be part of NATO because too many Turks live there.