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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S.: Poland 'On Track' for NATO

WARSAW -- U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke on Wednesday reassured Poland, which has been shaken by a spy scandal and strong Russian opposition to NATO expansion, that its prospects for joining the alliance were on track.

"We are steady on course for expansion of the alliance," Holbrooke told reporters after meeting Polish Foreign Minister Dariusz Rosati.

Rosati said he hoped Poland could get a final decision from NATO at a Brussels ministerial meeting in December.

But the U.S. assistant secretary of state said it was premature to say what would be settled then and in the meanwhile the world was watching how Poland's politics evolved.

During Holbrooke's one-day visit, a new cabinet under Prime Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz was appointed after nearly two weeks of tough negotiations between the two leftist coalition parties.

The reshuffle was forced by Prime Minister Jozef Oleksy's resignation last month over Polish security service allegations that he had informed for Moscow spies until 1995.

Polish officials have been concerned that furor over the affair could harm its image in Western eyes.

affecting its key goal of joining the Western military alliance rapidly.

"They [Polish politicians] recognize themselves that there are some democratic procedures that must be worked through in the next few months," Holbrooke told the news conference.

Poles have also expressed concern about recent strong Russian statements of opposition to NATO's eastward expansion, notably from Moscow's new foreign minister, Yevgeny Primakov.

Holbrooke said a meeting between Primakov and U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher in Helsinki this week would not bring a softening in the U.S. stance on NATO.

"There will be no change at that meeting in NATO's policies towards its own enlargement. They won't slow down, they won't speed up ... Nothing will happen in Helsinki that will be adverse to the interests of Poland," he told the news conference.

Holbrooke was quizzed about reports in U.S. and Czech newspapers alleging Russian efforts to destabilize central and eastern Europe or step up intelligence activities there.

He declined to comment specifically on the reports and said he could not confirm Russia was interfering. He added: "It is not in anyone's interests for Russia to meddle in the internal affairs of Poland."

Holbrooke said he knew Primakov personally. "I believe he is a realistic person who understands the realities of central Europe. I would expect that when he visits Poland, as I am sure he will, you will find that there will be full respect for Poland's sovereignty and independence."

The visit was billed as part of a farewell European tour by Holbrooke, who is about to leave his senior post as assistant secretary of state for European and Canadian affairs.

But the Polish leg, in which he met Cimoszewicz, the past and present presidents and top ministers, grew in significance because of the upset over Oleksy, which some Polish analysts suspect Russia may be stirring up to harm Poland's image.

Polish leaders are keen to reassure NATO members, especially the United States, that its democratic institutions can cope properly with the crisis.

Holbrooke warmly praised Poland's participation in the NATO-led force in Bosnia, and said Western investors would be pleased by assurances that the country's political upheavals would not affect its strong economic progress.