Lithuania warns against special zones in disarmament talks

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Ex-Soviet Baltic EU states cannot be treated as a special zone in possible disarmament talks aimed at reviving a Cold War-era treaty limiting conventional forces in Europe, a senior Lithuanian official said Thursday.

"We do not want to be a special zone, exception or be described in some specific way. We want to be an equal party in consultations, negotiations and -- if we are successful to achieve a result -- a part of the treaty," Lithuanian Foreign Minister Audronius Azubalis told AFP in an interview.

"Lithuania, like other countries in this geographical space, must be very careful in following discussions among nuclear countries on armament agreements," Azubalis said.

"Those who think they can push Lithuania into some special category would make their attempts in vain," he added.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently called for reviving the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty covering 36 nations and setting limits on troops and weapons which Russia froze nearly three years ago.

Having joined NATO and the EU in 2004, Lithuania Latvia and Estonia are not covered by the CFE regime as the Baltic states which broke free from the crumbling Soviet Union in 1990-91 are concerned about the possible imposition of limits on military forces in states bordering Russia.

The 1990 CFE treaty, signed when the three Baltic states were still part of Soviet Union, places precise limits on the stationing of troops and heavy weapons from the Atlantic coast to the Ural mountains.

Moscow's decision to suspend compliance in December 2007 drew fire from Western governments.

The CFE treaty was modified in 1999 to take account of the break-up of the Soviet Union, but Russia is the only country to have ratified this version as NATO countries refused to ratify the amended treaty until Russian troops withdraw from ex-Soviet republics Georgia and Moldova.

© 2010 AFP

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