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Czech Havel calls for caution in NATO-Russia ties

PRAGUE, Nov 27 (Reuters) - Czech President Vaclav Havel said on Tuesday he opposed any attempt to integrate Russia into NATO, warning it would hurt the alliance's identity and turn it into a new "boundless" institution such as the United Nations.

In an address to the Czech Senate, Havel said the alliance should act with self-restraint and caution before radically upgrading cooperation with its former Cold War foe.

"The alliance cannot casually offer membership to somebody, with whom it has at the moment harmonic relations," Havel said, adding that he was referring to planned tighter cooperation between Russia and the alliance and recent British proposals.

Last week, NATO secretary general Lord Robertson outlined a proposal, first offered by Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, under which a new NATO appendage, the Russia-North Atlantic Council, would give the Kremlin rights in discussion on certain security issues equal to those NATO members have.

The extent of the proposed council's portfolio was unclear, but terrorism, arms proliferation, drug trafficking and peacekeeping seemed likely candidates. The proposals have stopped short of suggesting full membership for Russia.

A cautious attitude toward Russia is common among former eastern bloc countries, once under Moscow's tight grip. Czechs still remember the 1968 Soviet-led invasion which crushed a reformist movement within the then-Czechoslovak Communist Party.

Havel said he would prefer cooperation between Russia and NATO as two separate entities, instead of any form of membership. He also said he opposed to creation of new bodies, calling it a bureaucratic idea.

He said possible further enlargements of NATO should be limited to countries such as Baltic states, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia, Romania, Bulgaria and Albania -- the "states of this region."

"Somebody now, somebody in 10 years, but (it should be said) that it will end with that, that it won't turn into a new boundless institution...a new OSCE (Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe) or a new U.N.," Havel said.

He said a new wave of NATO expansion should be launched at the next summit in Prague in November 2002, and that he was in favour of inviting Slovakia, Slovenia and former Soviet Baltic republics. The Czech Republic joined the alliance in 1999, along with Poland and Hungary.

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