Ukraine Puts Off NATO Membership Bid

Thursday, September 14, 2006; 6:48 AM

BRUSSELS, Sept 14 - Ukraine told NATO on Thursday it was putting on hold its aspirations to join the Western defence alliance because of public opposition, new Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich said.

"We have explained that because of the political situation in Ukraine, we will have to take a pause. But the time will come when a decision will be made," Yanukovich told a joint news conference after talks with NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and alliance ambassadors.

Russia fiercely opposed the previous Ukrainian government's intention to join NATO's Membership Action Plan, a path towards eventual membership. Yanukovich, regarded as closer to Moscow than reformist President Viktor Yushchenko, said he wanted Ukraine to be "a reliable bridge" between Europe and Russia.

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