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Ukraine PM plays down talk of NATO membership

Written by: Staff

BRUSSELS, Sep 14: Ukraine's new Prime Minister today said his government was working on closer ties with NATO but there was little public support for membership of the Western military alliance.

''For the time being we are looking at enlargement of our cooperation with NATO,'' Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich told reporters at the start of a visit to Brussels.

''Integration with NATO is a question which finds a favourable response of only small part of the Ukrainian population,'' he said.

NATO officials have said they are watching for signs of whether Yanukovich is interested in joining the alliance.

Yanukovich was appointed in August after months of political deadlock and is friendlier towards Russia than previous pro-Western reformist governments.

The last government was seeking actively to join NATO's Membership Action Plan, a move opposed by Moscow. NATO leaders are due to discuss the issue at a summit in Riga in November.

Yanukovich is due to meet NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and alliance envoys during his visit to Brussels to discuss future relations.

Ukranian President Viktor Yushchenko, who came to power in a so-called Orange Revolution after defeating Yanukovich in a disputed election in 2004, had a long-stated desire to seek membership despite Russian objections.


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