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Lord Kennet: My Lords, if the Minister will be so good as to allow me to intervene, I did not ask her to confirm that because I hope and believe that that is not the case. I pointed out that Senator Helms was binding the President to the interpretation that that was the case.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I misunderstood the question that the noble Lord asked. I made the point a few moments ago about the effect of what the Senate said on the American Government. It is of course an internal matter for the United States. An important point is that any negotiation in NATO will be a matter of consensus.

I shall try to answer some of the specific points raised. The noble Earl, Lord Carlisle, talked about NATO membership for the Baltic states. We recognise the aspirations of the Baltic states to join NATO. The Madrid Declaration of July 1997, following the NATO

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Summit, recognised the progress achieved towards greater stability and co-operation by the states in the Baltic region.

The noble Lord, Lord Belhaven and Stenton, raised the question of Poland. The UK Armed Forces are already using Polish training areas to exercise, with participation by Polish troops, as part of the precursor to the discussions of NATO enlargement.

I have been asked a number of questions by noble Lords about the strategic defence review. It is important to remember the purpose of the review. We have been clear about this when talking of the messages received. The aim of the strategic defence review has been to ensure that the United Kingdom has the right defence capabilities to match the new security challenges which have sprung up since the end of the Cold War including the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, aggressive nationalism, international terrorism, drugs and organised crime. It will provide a coherent and stable planning base for the year 2000 and beyond. I believe that that message is clearly understood by our allies.

The noble Lord, Lord Judd, asked specific points about NATO's relationship with Russia. Those were echoed by the noble Lord, Lord Rea. The new strategic concept will take account of NATO's new co-operative relationships with Russia, the Ukraine and other partners. NATO wants Russia as a partner in building European security and we are encouraged by the co-operation with Russia in the permanent Joint Council since the signature of the founding Act. If the noble Lord wishes to pursue more specific points I am happy to do so in correspondence.

The enlargement of NATO agreed by members of the alliance in Madrid was, in the words of my right honourable friend the Prime Minister,

    "an historic decision and a step of huge importance".

It is strongly supported by our allies, with whom we are at one in believing that it will make a major contribution to the security and stability of Europe. We also support NATO's open-door policy for future applicants. In the meantime, we intend to play a prominent part in supporting all NATO partners who wish to engage fully in the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council dialogue and the opportunities for military co-operation in the Partnership for Peace.

I can confirm what most of your Lordships have mentioned--that the Government have a commitment to give time to debating NATO enlargement fully in both Houses before formal ratification by the UK. That undertaking still stands and I hope soon to be able to make available a date for debate in this House. Therefore, if noble Lords do not feel that I have answered all their questions today they can be pursued at that time.

        House adjourned at six minutes past three o'clock.

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