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Cohen Says NATO Will Accept New Members

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

BRUSSELS, March 10, 1997 – NATO plans to extend Europe's zone of security and stability to the East, according to U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen.

"The Marshall Plan and NATO became the foundation of a security structure that made Western Europe peaceful, prosperous and stable for the last half of the 20th century," he said. "Now we are working to extend that security structure into Central and Eastern Europe, and into the next century."

Cohen was in Brussels March 7 for his first meeting with NATO ministers since taking office in January. He said partnership between the United States and Europe has never been more important nor more promising.

"After years of defending against Russia, NATO is now conducting constructive dialogue with Russia," Cohen said. "After years of opposing Warsaw Pact members, NATO is now prepared to offer membership to the former Warsaw Pact members."

NATO's goal is to improve and broaden security consultation and cooperation among these nations, Cohen said. "The new security partnership is most evident in Bosnia, where Russian and American soldiers patrol together every day as part of a 30-nation army of peacekeepers," he said.

NATO is pursuing a Russia-NATO charter to find ways to build upon the positive experience with the implementation force and stabilization force, Cohen said. Although Russian officials object to NATO's eastward expansion --and NATO is working to allay Russia's concerns-- NATO is going forward with enlargement, he said.

NATO officials are slated to identify member candidates at a summit meeting in Madrid in June. Nations that do not make the first cut should not be discouraged, but should continue working with Partnership for Peace and the Atlantic Partnership Council, Cohen said.

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