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NATO/Russia: Clinton And Yeltsin Meet Privately After Signing Accord

Paris, 27 May 1997 (RFE/RL) - U.S. President Bill Clinton and his Russian counterpart Boris Yeltsin held a private meeting today in Paris after they -- along with other NATO leaders -- signed a historic pact on future relations between Russia and the Alliance. The meeting was held at the U.S. ambassador's residence in Paris but no details were immediately available.

The Founding Act upgrades political and military ties between Russia and NATO and clears the way for NATO to expand to the east.

At the signing ceremony, Yeltsin called the pact "a victory for reason" and said it would safeguard EUrope and the world from new confrontation.

Clinton said he looked forward to "a new century with a new Russia and new NATO".

In a surprise move, Yeltsin also said that his country will disarm nuclear missiles aimed at all NATO states. A Kremlin spokesman later clarified that Yeltsin's remarks meant that warheads will not be targeted at the states which signed the Founding Act. U.S. officials said earlier Clinton was expected to seek clarification of the remarks at his meeting today with Yeltsin.

In Moscow, Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin also called the pact a "historic document" and said it will "doubtlessly contribute" to the consolidation of stability in Europe.

The countries of Eastern and Central Europe also welcomed the accord. Meeting in Estonia, the presidents of the Baltic states, Ukraine and Poland reiterated, however, that NATO should remain open to all aspiring members. NATO spokesman Jamie Shea told a news conference in Paris that the Baltic states remain eligible for NATO membership, despite Russia's strong objections.