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Paper: US To Back Baltic Membership

January 12, 1998

NEW YORK (AP) _ The United States will formally pledge to support NATO membership for three Baltic nations, The New York Times reported today.

The presidents of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were to join President Clinton in the signing of the Charter of Partnership at a White House ceremony on Friday, the newspaper said.

The charter declares a political commitment to maintaining the sovereignty and national borders of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia without actually pledging U.S. military power in defense of those principles.

But Washington has told Lennar Meri of Estonia, Guntis Ulmanis of Latvia and Algirdas Brazauskas of Lithuania not to expect their countries to be admitted to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization any time soon, the Times said. U.S. Senate and legislatures from other NATO members are still negotiating membership approval for Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia.

The Baltic nations never recognized Soviet annexation _ the result of the 1939 Nazi-Soviet pact, and their quest to step out from behind the Iron Curtain sped the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991.

U.S. officials said they expect a negative reaction from Russia after the signing.

The Times quoted an unidentified senior U.S. official as saying that the charter seeks to give the three countries a sense that they can become part of the European Union, with eventual entrance into the World Trade Organization and NATO.

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