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Thursday, October 14, 1999 Published at 11:36 GMT 12:36 UK

UK Politics

Robertson's hello to arms

George Robertson: Hopes to soothe relations between East and West

Lord Robertson has arrived in Brussels to take up his post as secretary general of Nato on Thursday.

The former UK defence secretary, who replaces Spain's Javier Solana at the head of the defence organisation, told awaiting reporters he expected a heavy workload.

Chief among his duties would be restoring relations with Russia, which were severely damaged during the Kosovo conflict

"As we move into the 21st century there are a lot of challenges before us," he said.

"Most of these conflicts are common problems, both East and West. It is better that we tackle these problems together."

Lord Robertson, 53, also set out his ultimate aim for solving the problems highlighted during the Nato offensive against Kosovo.

"My goal is a Balkans that is inside the European family of democratic values," he said.

The former British MP takes up his new role at a difficult time.

The United States Senate has thrown out the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty against the wishes of President Bill Clinton.

And violence is continuing in Kosovo, where the United Nations is attempting to restore peace to the province after the recent ethnic cleansing which prompted Nato's intervention.

Lord Robertson earlier told the BBC getting the US to back the test ban treaty was "in everybody's' interests".

[ image: International troops are hoping to bring peace to Kosovo]
International troops are hoping to bring peace to Kosovo
He said it was "a very worrying vote - I think it has a lot to do with the partisan nature of US politics at the moment and the febrile atmosphere created by a presidential election on the horizon.

"We have to persuade the American's Congress that this is in the interests, not only of international sector but also the United States and I hope that we can do that and this is not a permanent position."

The treaty is designed to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons testing and has already been signed by more than 150 countries.

On Kosovo, Lord Robertson admitted there was still violence in the Yugoslav province but insisted it was no more than that experienced in some American cities.

He said: "We are seeing nothing like the systematic violence that took place before [prior to Nato's intervention] by a state organisation campaigning against a people, spilling them over borders, expelling them from their own homeland.

"Of course there is violence in Kosovo but frankly the amount of violence that is going on just now, in the wake of what was going on in that part of the world, although disturbing is not as bad as many said it would be."

Lord Robertson said that although many Serbs had left Kosovo since the international community intervened he said that according to the head of K-For General Sir Mike Jackson there were still up to 97,000 Serbs living in the province.

He added that is was essential that the people of Yugoslavia as a whole knew that they had a "good solid future as part of the European family if [President] Milosevic goes".

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