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France Gives In To Limited Expansion

France bowed Wednesday to President Clinton’s wish to limit NATO expansion to Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary, backing away from a looming impasse when leaders of the alliance meet in Madrid next week to extend the first invitations to formerly communist states in central Europe.

In a statement, the French government also said that while the United States had not yet ceded enough leadership positions in the alliance to Europeans to satisfy French conditions for letting their troops rejoin NATO military structures they left 31 years ago, they were willing to continue discussions.

“France reaffirms that five countries now fulfill the conditions for joining the alliance,” the statement said, referring to the three Clinton wants to invite, plus Romania and Slovenia. But France said it would not block the admission of only three countries if Clinton insisted, as senior officials in Washington said again Wednesday that he planned to do in Madrid.

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