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Yeltsin Says Russia Will Sign Treaty With NATO Over Issues of Security

By Vanora Bennett
Los Angeles Times

Dropping Russia's growling reluctance to accept NATO as the future security framework for Europe, President Boris N. Yeltsin announced Thursday his country will sign a treaty with the Western defense alliance in Paris next month.

"I want to announce here that on May 27 in Paris the leaders of NATO and Russia will sign a treaty," Yeltsin said, looking frail and slightly bemused by his own words, after a meeting with German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. "So we have to hurry."

Yeltsin has until now accepted only gentle nudging toward acceptance of NATO's plan to expand into former Soviet satellite states in Central and Eastern Europe.

NATO wants to issue the first invitations, to Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, at a Madrid, Spain, summit July 89. Russia wants to limit the stationing of Western troops and weapons in Central and Eastern European states, but NATO is reluctant to give sweeping guarantees that would condemn new members to second-class citizenship within the alliance. NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana said Wednesday that a deal with Russia might not be ready by May 27.

The idea of a treaty binding NATO to its Cold War-era enemy was first agreed to by Yeltsin and President Clinton at a February summit in Helsinki, Finland. But the night before Yeltsin met Kohl, the Russian leader's spokesman, Sergei V. Yastrzhembsky, was still talking tough about the problems Russia had with negotiations.

After talks in this pretty, magnolia-strewn spa town, however, Yeltsin's views seemed to have evolved dramatically. Even the urbane Kohl was not quite as upbeat as the Russian president in his assessment of the progress made at their talks.

Kohl said he was confident that with "good will on both sides" there could be a deal before the Madrid summit.

But the German leader referred repeatedly to a "document," rather than the more formal "treaty" that Yeltsin says will be ready for signature next month, and said important differences remain to be ironed out. Although the first four parts of the planned deal are 90 percent worked out, Kohl said the fifth and final part - the military issues - still needs what the chancellor called "detailed" work. Both leaders declined to give more details.

"There were significant differences of opinion and they had to be overcome step by step," Kohl said.

Yeltsin said he remains opposed to the West stationing of conventional or nuclear arms in the territory of new alliance members, and he hopes Kohl, an "authoritative politician," will put his own weight behind Russia's arguments.

The 66-year-old Yeltsin was invited to Germany to receive the "Man of the Year" prize awarded to him by the German media last year.