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NATO: U.S. Says Expansion Decision Expected Tuesday

Washington, 3 July 1997 (RFE/RL) - The United States says a formal decision on which countries are to be invited to join NATO will be made next Tuesday on the first day of the NATO summit in Madrid.

White House National Security Adviser Sandy Berger told reporters yesterday NATO heads of state will hold an afternoon session Tuesday and decide then which countries will join the alliance on the first expansion round.

Berger reiterated that the U.S. favors admitting only Poland and Hungary and the Czech Republic at this time. He said the U.S. will stand firm and believes its position will prevail in Madrid against many European allies who also want to include Romania and Slovenia.

Berger said the Madrid decision will be by consensus and that there already exists a unanimity of views on admitting the Czechs, Hungarians and Poles. He said these three are more advanced in democratic and market reforms but said Romania and Slovenia are good candidates for the next round.

Berger said that on Wednesday, the second day of the summit, President Bill Clinton will have a bilateral meeting with Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, followed by a signing ceremony inaugurating a NATO-Ukrainian charter.

Representatives of 27 countries participating in the NATO Partnership for Peace program have also been invited to Madrid and will meet NATO members for informal meetings and a working luncheon on Wednesday.

Defense Secretary William Cohen, who appeared with Berger, said summit participants will also discuss measures to strengthen the Partnership for Peace and other ways to deepen ties with countries excluded from the first expansion round.

After the summit, Clinton on Thursday plans to travel to Poland, then Romania and Denmark. Cohen said he will visit Bulgaria and a Partnership for Peace military exercise in Ukraine. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is going to Prague.