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NATO: France Won't Rejoin Command Structure

Maastricht, 1 October 1997 (RFE/RL) - France announced today that it will not rejoin NATO's military command structure in the immediate future, but will continue to take part in peacekeeping operations. The development follows a failed bid by Paris to wrest control of NATO's southern regional command from the United States.

French Defense Minister Alain Richard communicated Paris' position today at a meeting of NATO defense ministers at Maastricht, Netherlands. German Defense Minister Volker Ruehe said France pledged not to block plans to reform NATO's military command by reducing its 65 European headquarters to 20.

Earlier today, U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen said a decision would be made by January or February on whether U.S. troops will remain in Bosnia after NATO's current peacekeeping mandate expires in June. The NATO ministers also are expected to discuss the entry of three new members from Central Europe and the alliance's delicate relations with Moscow.