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NATO: Alliance Understands Yeltsin Decision On Madrid

Brussels, 20 June 1997 (RFE/RL) - A NATO official says the Alliance is "entirely relaxed" about Russia's President Boris Yeltsin's decision not to attend next month's NATO summit in Madrid. The NATO official today said it is perfectly well understood that Yeltsin's decision did not reflect any change in Kremlin policy.

And, in fact, the NATO official said the Alliance hopes and expected to resolve soon the remaining procedural problems in the way of holding the first of the regular joint Council meeting, provided in the NATO-Russia Charter.

The NATO official briefed reporters at Alliance headquarters today.

The official said the first meeting of the Council might be held next month, or in September, perhaps, just before the United Nations General Assembly session.

As to the procedural problems, mentioned differing views over how a meeting might be chaired. NATO wants Secretary General Javier Solana to chair the meeting, while Russia prefers rotating the chairmanship. It was suggested that this item might be discussed at this week's Summit of the Eight in Denver, Colorado.

Next week (Mon, Jun 23), Secretary General Solana visits Sarajevo. He will meet told Bosnia officials, and the international community's new High Representative to Bosnia, Carlos Westendrop. Solana also has separate meeting scheduled with representatives of Muslim, Serb and Croat communities. Next month will be held the six-month review of the NATO-led, peace-implementation force (SFOR). The consultations will consider, among other issues, the request of military commanders for a temporary reinforcement of troop levels, during the period of local elections, scheduled September 13-14.

On NATO enlargement, the NATO official said Solana reported yesterday to NATO ambassadors on what he called his initial findings - but not recommendations - from meetings he has held with individual ambassadors. These discussions have focused on each ambassador's preference on 'whom' and 'how many' should be invited next month in Madrid to negotiate for NATO membership. Solana also sought to determine the scope of compromise that might be necessary to reach concensus on new members. The NATO official said no details are available on these consultations. And, the NATO official said not all NATO governments have yet taken firm positions, as the U.S. has done. He mentioned Germany and the Netherlands as examples of countries which have not yet taken firm positions.

All NATO "Partnership for Peace" countries - not just the leading candidates for membership - have been invited to attend the second day of the Madrid summit.