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Ukraine: Cohen Accepts Invitation To Visit

Washington, 2 May 1997 (RFE/RL) - U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen says he will visit Ukraine this summer in the effort to improve military and defense cooperation between the countries.

Cohen accepted the invitation yesterday from Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksandr Kuzmuk, who is in the U.S. on an official visit.

At a welcoming ceremony for Kuzmuk at the Pentagon, Cohen praised what he called Ukraine's bold and progressive choice to rid itself of the nuclear weapons it inherited after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Cohen said Ukraine's commitment to peaceful disarmament is an inspiration to the rest of the world.

He noted that Ukraine is cooperating closely with the NATO alliance through the partnership for peace program and mentioned that Ukraine will host a partnership military exercise this summer.

Kuzmuk has been in the U.S. all week. He has toured several military bases. To reporters, Kuzmuk reiterated Ukraine's position that it is neutral and not interested in becoming a full member of the NATO alliance. However, he remarked that, in his words, there is nothing permanent in the past, in the present and in the future.