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Saturday, December 5, 1998 Published at 00:47 GMT

World: Americas

US supports European defence pact

By State Department Correspondent, Richard Lister

The United States has welcomed the defence agreement between the UK and France, saying it should enhance the aims of Nato.

The State Department said it supports moves by European countries to take more responsibility for their own defence.

There have long been calls from within both the Clinton administration and Congress for Europe to be more self-reliant in times of military crisis.

This agreement between the UK and France seems to officials in Washington to be a move in the right direction.

Nato aims 'preserved'

A State Department spokesman, James Foley, said the understanding between London and Paris should strengthen the ability of Europe's armed forces to react to new challenges and should preserve the aims of Nato.

He said: "Certainly the United States' interest is clear - we want a European partner that is capable of acting, and so European efforts to do more for Europe's own defence help our engagement in Europe, they don't hinder it."

But Mr Foley also made clear that the US would expect any new arrangements in Europe to respect the central role currently played by Nato.

The Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, has described Nato as America's institution of choice for defending Western values in Europe.

And, although Washington would like to see European countries become less reliant on American military force, the US does not want to be sidelined in the decision-making process when new threats arise.

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