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Lithuania: Landsbergis Says Security For Small States Key Concern

Prague, 18 April 1997 (RFE/RL) - Lithuanian parliamentary speaker Vytautas Landsbergis said today that the key issue of European security is whether the freedom of the continent's small nations is protected.

He said he has received "assurances" but also heard what he called "childish contradictions" from some Western politicians on Lithuania's hopes to join the NATO alliance.

Landsbergis made the comments in a news conference at the headquarters of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Prague at the end of a trip that included stops in Washington and Bonn.

He said Western politicians assured him Russia will not be able to veto membership for any applicant. But he said remarks made clear that NATO is not "psychologically or politically ready" to tell Moscow that it does not enjoy a veto on NATO expansion decisions.

However, Landsbergis said he is confident NATO WILL invite new members to join accession talks at a NATO summit in July. He said if it didn't, it would be the end of NATO. But he said the three countries widely believed to be the leading candidates -- Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic -- do not have the most pressing security concerns.

Landsbergis said he hopes that NATO will also invite other states to begin accession talks, with the understanding that actual membership will be delayed until a later date. He said even a statement of intent to include states would provide security and stop potential aggressors.