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Report: Yeltsin to skip NATO expansion summit

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June 18, 1997
Web posted at: 5:01 p.m. EDT (2101 GMT)

MOSCOW (CNN) -- Russian President Boris Yeltsin will not attend a NATO summit in Madrid next month because he disapproves of NATO expansion into Eastern Europe, the Russian news agency ITAR-Tass reported Wednesday.

Citing an unidentified source close to the president, the agency said Yeltsin plans to publicly announce his decision, possibly as early as Thursday.

The report could not be immediately confirmed. The Presidential Press service, reached by phone by CNN, said it had no information about the possible announcement.

At the July 8-9 summit, NATO is expected to announce which Eastern European nations are invited to join the alliance. Yeltsin has strongly opposed the expansion effort, saying it threatens Russia's national security.

Russian officials and political analysts, contacted by CNN in the past few days, have said it was almost certain Yeltsin would not attend.

"I am absolutely sure the president would not go to Madrid because, in this case, that would show that Yeltsin or the Russian government is supporting this whole concept of NATO expansion," said Vyacheslav Nikonov, the head of Polity Foundation, a Russian think tank.

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