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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Belarus, Russia on Offensive At OSCE

Combined Reports

LISBON -- Russia attacked NATO's plans for enlargement and Belarus came under fire at the start of a security summit Monday, sounding a jarring note as some 50 nations met to try and build lasting peace in Europe.

And, at a side meeting, Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and U.S. Vice President Al Gore discussed a 1997 summit between Russian President Boris Yeltsin and U.S. President Bill Clinton, but final details have yet to be worked out, a Russian official said here.

Chernomyrdin told assembled leaders at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or OSCE, summit that NATO would create new fault lines on the continent if it went ahead with plans to take in countries from Eastern Europe as new members.

"Is it not clear that the appearance of new dividing lines would lead to a worsening of the whole geopolitical situation in the world?" Chernomyrdin said at the opening session of the two-day summit.

The last OSCE summit, two years ago in Budapest, was wrecked by a row on the same issue and differences over Bosnia.

The United States and NATO Secretary General Javier Solana insisted that the alliance posed no threat to anyone and that it wanted "The stability that NATO can help extend to Central Europe can help ensure the security of all nations."

"We will continue to try and reassure the Russians, I hope we will manage to do so," Solana said.

Gore later told reporters that plans for a NATO summit next year, which would name the new countries to join the alliance, would go ahead on schedule despite Russian opposition.

However, the Lisbon meeting did reach agreement on an issue of concern to Russia -- adapting and extending a Cold War-era arms treaty which Moscow says no longer reflects reality. A new round of talks on conventional arms reductions in Europe is expected to start in Vienna in January as a result.

Details of the hoped-for summit between Clinton and Yeltsin could be decided in February 1997 during the next meeting between Gore and the Russian premier, a spokesman for the Russian delegation said.

He added that Gore had delivered a message from Clinton to his Russian counterpart in which he said he hoped Yeltsin would make a speedy recovery from his heart operation and said he would give "a strong impetus to relations between the two countries."

A U.S. source would neither confirm nor deny the account of the meeting, stating merely that it had been a private encounter.

The crises in Belarus and Serbia also detracted from the summit's intended harmony. Western nations told Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, accused of building dictatorial powers through a controversial referendum, to put the former Soviet republic back on the track to democracy.

A defiant Lukashenko responded by supporting Russia's opposition to NATO expansion, denying there was any problem at home and telling leaders to mind their own business. "It would be counterproductive to try to exert pressure on us or try to interfere in our internal affairs," he said.

The summit will agree on a final document laying out plans for European security in the 21st century and measures to help shore up peace in Bosnia, one year after the war ended there.

International peace coordinator Carl Bildt called for Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic to start radical democratic reforms and to drop a threat to crush growing street protests.

A senior U.S. official, who asked not to be identified, said there could not be a "decent peace in the Balkans" unless Serbia became an open and democratic society. But Washington and other countries have shrunk from calling openly for Milosevic to abandon his authoritarian rule after nine years.

Leaders are also holding a series of bilateral meetings in Lisbon -- more than 170 in total.

Russia has little chance of winning support at the summit for its proposals to give the OSCE a more powerful role in European security and have it act as a counterbalance to NATO.

France gave some backing to Moscow's view, saying Europe's biggest and most inclusive security organization should be strengthened by a formal treaty or charter.

"Seven years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, we have an historic opportunity to ... rebuild the European family," French President Jacques Chirac said.

France and Germany have shown some sympathy for Russian concerns, but many other countries fear Russia wants to gain an effective veto on important European security issues by changing the way the OSCE works.

Gore took this line when he told the summit the organization should remain flexible and work with NATO -- not compete. "The OSCE does not need to be transformed into the only orchestrating institution of European security," he said.

Nevertheless, Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien urged the leaders to work more effectively in dealing with crises like the refugee problem in eastern Zaire. Canada has been leading complicated efforts in recent weeks to put together an international humanitarian force to help in the region.

?Russia's Ambassador to Lisbon Alexander Smirnov was rushed to the hospital Monday after suffering an epileptic seizure at the OSCE summit, security officials said. Officials said the diplomat collapsed during a bilateral meeting between Portuguese Foreign Minister Jaime Gama and his Russian counterpart Yevgeny Primakov. A doctor who treated the diplomat before the ambulance arrived said Smirnov did not lose consciousness and was taken to the hospital as a precaution. ()