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Lithuania: Membership In EU And NATO Is Top Priority, Says Minister

By Anthony Giorgieff

Copenhagen, 3 February 1997 (RFE/RL) -- Lithuanian Foreign Minister Algirdas Saudargas says that the Baltic states should receive the same treatment that Poland does on the question of early admission to NATO.

On a one-day official visit to Denmark today, he said that failure to admit the Baltic states would contradict stated Western policy. It would be incorrect to refuse admission on the ground that the Baltic states once were part of the Soviet Union, he said, because the West never recognized the Soviet occupation of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

Saudargas said full membership in the EU and NATO is the top priority of his country's foreign policy today.

In 1991, Denmark became the first Western state to recognize the independence of the three. Danish Foreign Minister Uffe Ellemann Jensen became popular in the Baltics because of his outspoken support for their right to self-determination. The current Danish government maintains the position that the three Baltic republics should not be excluded from NATO and the European Union.

Minister Saudargas is scheduled today to meet senior Danish officials, including Prime Minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen.