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NATO: Missile Defense System To Top Leaders' Talks

Brussels, 13 June 2001 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. President George W. Bush will meet today with leaders of NATO countries at the alliance's headquarters in Brussels. The U.S. plan for a missile defense system is expected to top the agenda. U.S. officials say Bush will try to convince the 18 NATO allies that the missile defense plan is a way to prevent nuclear blackmail by so-called rogue states.

Many U.S. allies fear the plan proposed by Bush may upset strategic stability because it will require amending or abandoning the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty which forbids such defensive systems.

Russia and China say the plan could trigger an arms race.

NATO expansion, the situation in Macedonia, and Europe's planned rapid-reaction force also will be discussed today.

Bush began a five-nation European tour yesterday in Madrid.

He said there that NATO will expand and that no country can veto any qualified democracy's admission.

Bush made the remark in answer to a reporter's question about the NATO candidacies of the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Russia has voiced strong opposition to the Baltic countries' membership as a threat to its security.