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Czech Republic/Romania: NATO Membership Not Competition

Prague, 10 March 1997 (RFE/RL) -- The presidents of the Czech Republic and Romania said today that NATO membership for central and eastern European countries is not a competition.

Czech President Vaclav Havel and Romania's Emil Constantinescu spoke to reporters in Prague today after holding talks.

Havel said he was well aware of the importance of solidarity, support and cooperation among countries seeking to become NATO members. But he said it was not important which of the countries became members first but that the Western alliance clearly explained the logic of the timetable for its eastward expansion.

Havel said he hoped the Czech Republic will meet Romania in NATO.

Constantinescu, on a two-day visit to Prague, said although Romania was prepared to enter NATO in the first wave of admissions, he was not aware of any evidence that it will be among the first.

Constantinescu met Havel and Foreign Minister Jozef Zieleniec and led a large Romanian delegation at talks with Czech officials. Constantinescu is accompanied, among others, by deputy prime ministers Ulm Spineanu, responsible for reform and economic strategy, and Calin Popescu-Tariceanu, Minister of Economy and Trade.

Constantinescu today also meets top leaders of Parliament. A university professor and former rector of Bucharest University, Constantinescu will also meet top Czech academics.

Tomorrow, Constantinescu holds talks with Foreign Minister Zieleniec and Defense Minister Miloslav Vyborny. Constantinescu then visits the Prague headquarters of RFE/RL. He told our correspondent today that he is very pleased to visit the Prague headquarters. He visited the Munich headquarters in 1992 when he was a top opposition leader and presidential candidate.