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NATO: Britain Backs Polish Entry To NATO In 1999

London, 25 October 1996 (RFE/RL) -- British Prime Minister John Major has said that Poland is likely to be one of the new members admitted to NATO in 1999.

Major spoke last night after talks with Polish President Alexander Kwasniewski who has just ended a two-day visit to Britain.

Poland is one of three or four Central European countries widely expected to be invited to join NATO next year and become full members by 1999, when the western alliance marks its 50th anniversary. The others are the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovenia.

In a speech to the Royal Institute of International Affairs yesterday, Kwasniewski said that Poland's prospective membership of NATO would enhance rather than threaten the stability of neighboring countries.

"We are confident that Poland's accession to NATO will lead to a projection of stability and security into areas stretching beyond our eastern frontier," he said.

He also gave an assurance to Russia and Ukraine by saying Poland sees no reason for nuclear weapons to be deployed on its soil when it joins the western alliance. "We perceive no security requirement for stationing nuclear weapons on Polish territory," he said.

He added it was "unnecessary and misleading" to raise the subject of nuclear weapons in the context of Poland's application to join NATO.

Kwasniewski also urged the Western alliance to draw up a charter to govern its relations with Ukraine, similar to one that Russia has been offered.

NATO has tried to allay Russian suspicions about the expansion of NATO eastwards by proposing a charter that would set the terms of a close relationship with Moscow in the post Cold War age.

While in Britain, Kwasniewski has also stressed his country's case for membership of the European Union.

But British officials said it might prove more difficult for Poland to join the EU by 2000. This target date was mentioned in a speech that French President Jacques Chirac gave in Warsaw recently, but EC officials later described 2002 as a more realistic target.