Albright in Britain for talks on NATO, Northern Ireland
LONDON (AP) _ Secretary of State Madeleine Albright brought her proposal for NATO-Russian partnership to Britain today, before making her case to skeptical Russian leaders.
Albright also was expected to discuss Northern Ireland’s stalled peace process when she meets with Prime Minister John Major. She was to talk separately with Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind and hold a news conference with Rifkind tonight.
The New York Times said Albright will also propose sharp reductions in conventional weapons in Central and Eastern Europe.
The plan would modify the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty signed in 1990 and based on the now outdated assumption the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies faced a hostile NATO, the newspaper said today.
The Times reported that the plan would remove many of the conventional forces that are closest to and seen as most threatening to Russia and other countries like Slovakia and the Baltic nations, that would be left out of the initial NATO expansion.
In a bid to lessen Moscow’s opposition to NATO’s proposed expansion into Eastern Europe, Albright proposed in Brussels on Tuesday that the alliance form a joint military brigade with Russia for peacekeeping operations in Europe.
Russian and NATO troops could also train together, Albright said, noting they were already working together to enforce the Bosnian peace accord.
Albright will take her ideas to Moscow on Thursday for talks with President Boris Yeltsin, Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov and other Kremlin officials who are uniformly dubious about NATO’s plans to expand to Russia’s western border by 1999.
The proposal for a peacekeeping brigade ``would be interesting to us,″ deputy foreign minister Nikolai Afanasyevsky said, according to the Interfax news agency.
With the 16-nation NATO primed to offer membership to former Soviet allies _ most likely Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary _ the United States, France and other allies are searching for ways to allay Russia’s anxieties.
British government officials publicly support U.S. efforts to ease Moscow’s worries. But some have expressed concerns that NATO’s enlargement policy needs to be explained more successfully.
The Guardian in London quoted an unidentified British official today as saying: ``We don’t think it’s realistic to expect the Russians to applaud NATO enlargement. ... But we don’t think NATO should blink because they are turning up the volume.″
The Washington Times today cites a classified CIA report that several prospective members _ Poland, Slovenia and Bulgaria _ are involved in arms sales to countries identified by the United States as sponsors of terrorism, including Iran and Iraq.
The newspaper said the most recent delivery of weapons took place in the summer when Poland shipped tanks and other equipment to Iran. The CIA report also cited a company in the former Yugoslav republic of Slovenia that took part in supplying tank transmissions and other parts. The deliveries were halted when the United States protested, the report said.
On Northern Ireland, Albright has supported the British and Irish governments’ insistence that the Irish Republican Army must announce another cease-fire before its political ally, Sinn Fein, can join negotiations on the future of the British-ruled province. Britain also insists on an IRA pledge to disarm before Sinn Fein can join.
Albright lived in Britain as a child before her family, who fled Czechoslovakia, went to the United States.
Pupils at a private girls’ school in Kensington, west London, where Albright was a pupil during World War II, have been shown one of her old reports, the headmistress said.
``She was here for a very short time, about two terms in 1942-43,″ said headmistress Jill Lumsden.