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NATO: No Decisions On Candidates Yet

Washington, 4 June 1997 (RFE/RL) - U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen says he will not make predictions about which Central and East European nations might be invited to join the NATO alliance next month.

Cohen told reporters yesterday that no decisions have been made yet about candidates for membership from the region. He spoke just before a meeting with Slovenian Defense Minister Tit Turnsek.

Slovenia and Romania want to join the alliance and believe they should be included in the first round of expansion. NATO is expected to invite at least the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland. Washington press reports last week said there is a difference of opinion between the U.S. and a majority of NATO's other 15 members on how many new candidates should be invited when the alliance meets in Madrid on July 8th.

The U.S. reportedly wants only the Czechs, the Hungarians and the Poles in the first round. The reports say other NATO members want Romania and Slovenia included.

There has been no official comment from Washington on these reports. The U.S. position has been to refrain from endorsing specific nations.

Cohen said that Slovenia has a very good record and he says he believes Slovenia is under consideration.