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Bosnia: NATO Withdrawal Would Cause More Fighting

Brussels, 5 December 1997 (RFE/RL) -- NATO's Chief of Staff, General Klaus Naumann, says most members of the Europe-Atlantic Partnership Council agreed today that withdrawing NATO forces from Bosnia under current conditions would likely lead to renewed hostilities there.

Gen. Naumann made the comment after meeting at NATO's headquarters at Brussels with officials from the 44 countries in the Council. He said several countries indicated willingness to participate in any NATO-led continuation force approved for Bosnia after the current mandate for NATO peacekeepers expires in June.

Naumann also had separate meetings today with Russian Chief of Staff Gen. Anatoly Kvashnin and Ukrainian Chief of Staff Gen. Oleksander Zatynaiko. RFE/RL's correspondent in Brussels reports that Russia has invited NATO's so-called Stanavforlant fleet Standing Naval Force for the Atlantic) to visit St. Petersburg. The fleet is comprised of about six ships that are based at Norfolk, Virginia.

For his part, Gen. Naumann invited Russia to send officers to courses at NATO's training college in Rome and to send Russian students to NATO's school at Oberammergau in Germany. He said NATO would like to send its own participants to Russian military schools as part of an exchange program. He said a plan to set up liaison missions in Moscow and Brussels should be ready for a decision sometime next year.

Gen. Naumann said that Russia's Gen. Kvashnin did not offer any explanation about recent proposals by President Boris Yeltsin on disarmament. But he said NATO welcomes the proposals because, in his words, steps toward greater transparency are always in the right direction.

Gen. Naumann also said there had been no discussion on Russia's expressed concerns about the extension of NATO's infrastructure into Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic after they become members of the alliance. Naumann said it is not NATO policy to discuss such matters without the presence of representatives from the countries concerned.

Naumann said he reiterated NATO's assurances on these issues to Gen. Kvashnin. He said: "One has to remind Russia from time to time that NATO has taken unilateral steps to meet Russia's self-perceived concerns."

Gen. Naumann said Gen. Zatynaiko expressed concerns about priorities for cooperation with NATO, given Ukraine's limited resources. Naumann said talks with Zatynaiko covered the value of joint exercises, the best ways to achieve greater inter-operability with NATO forces, and further work in the Partnership for Peace program.

The next meeting between the chiefs of staff of NATO and Ukraine is scheduled for May.