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NATO: Secretary General Proposes Balkan 'Partnership'

By Jeremy Bransten and Ben Partridge

London, 10 March 1999 (RFE/RL) -- NATO Secretary General Javier Solana yesterday offered Serbia a carrot and a stick.

He said Belgrade must accept a Western-sponsored peace plan for Kosovo, including NATO peacekeeping troops. But he added that if Belgrade accepts, NATO might consider offering new political and economic incentives for the region.

Solana suggested offering the region a system of incentives to draw closer to Western Europe which he called a new "partnership for prosperity." He said talented younger politicians in Serbia, for example, must see it is better to look to the future than remain mired in past historical grievances.

The secretary general spoke on the second day of the NATO 50th anniversary conference being held at Britain's Royal United Services Institute in London.

Solana said that if and when a peace agreement is reached in Serbia's Kosovo province, the alliance and other Western institutions should offer a comprehensive program of political and economic incentives to help the entire region rejoin the European mainstream.

Separately at the conference in London today, Ukraine's ambassador to NATO, Konstantyn Gryshchenko, congratulated the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland on their imminent induction as full new members of the alliance.

The three Central European states will officially enter NATO at a ceremony on Friday in Independence, Missouri.

Gryshchenko said his government sees NATO's eastward enlargement as an "expansion of democracy and a guarantee of stability in Europe."

Gryshchenko said Kyiv wants to continue to accelerate and deepen its special partnership with the alliance. He said this will remain one of Kyiv's foreign policy priorities for many years to come.

The Ukrainian ambassador said Kyiv's cooperation with NATO is already extensive and will continue to yield benefits not only in the military and technical fields but also in economics. He said NATO could help Ukraine as it attempts to restructure its outdated defense industries. Gryshchenko also thanked the alliance for its help during last year's floods in western Ukraine.

Asked by RFE/RL's correspondent whether Ukraine might soon want to join NATO itself, Gryshchenko refused to speculate. But he said his government's current policy is aimed at achieving "as close cooperation as possible" and to "harness as many practical results as possible" from that cooperation.

Tomorrow, the Slovak and Romanian foreign ministers are scheduled to be the principal speakers at the conference. Both countries are seeking to join NATO. And Romania, in particular, has been urging the alliance to use next month's NATO summit in Washington to announce a timetable for a second wave of expansion.

Asked by RFE/RL what he expected from the Washington summit, Romanian Foreign Minister Andrei Plesu said today that his country wants "a clear-cut roadmap of what is going to happen next."

Plesu said Bucharest wants the April meeting to unveil a timetable for further expansion as well a specific list of the criteria which have to be met for membership in the alliance's second wave of expansion.

NATO officials have said they will issue more detailed guidelines to help future members but will most likely not declare any dates.