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Europe: Albright And Kinkel Disagree Over French NATO Proposal

Bonn, 17 February 1997 (RFE/RL) - U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright discussed NATO's planned eastward expansion today with German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel.

The talks were held in Bonn, which is the second stop on Albright's first overseas trip as US secretary of state.

Kinkel voiced his country's support for a French proposal to convene a meeting of the four largest NATO members -- France, Britain, Germany and the United States -- with Russia in April to allay Russian fears over the Western alliance's enlargement plan. Kinkel told reporters that everything must be done "to make it easy for Russia to accept NATO enlargement."

But Albright again rejected the proposal. She said the alliance was now focused on the substance of Madrid and not the process. She was refering to a meeting of the 16 NATO leaders scheduled for July in Madrid, during which invitations to join NATO are expected to be offered to Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary.

Albright is also expected to reiterate U.S. opposition to the French proposal when she travels on to Paris later today for talks with President Jacques Chirac and other French officials.

In Bonn, Albright also met with Chancellor Helmut Kohl, and said afterwards that they saw "eye to eye" on NATO expansion. Albright is using the trip to forge a common position with NATO allies on how to align Russia with NATO without offering it either membership or a veto opportunity.