WASHINGTON, April 3 -- Visiting Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres voiced firm support for expanding NATO, calling it 'a basic condition for democracy, for peace and stability' in central and eastern Europe. At a meeting Thursday with President Clinton, Guterres said he hoped NATO would continue providing 'the basic framework for European security,' with the United States maintaining its 'irreplaceable role in the guarantee of European security.'
Guterres visited as the United States continued its battle of wills with Russia over a U.S.-driven effort to extend NATO membership to countries of central and eastern Europe. At their March summit, Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin remained at loggerheads over NATO expansion, but agreed to keep working on a charter defining NATO's relations with Russia. Guterres said, 'I hope that one day in the future NATO and Russia can be allies defending the values of enlightenment against all the irrational behaviors in the modern world, irrational behaviors based on extreme naturalism, religious fundamentalism, and all other things that should not exist in a modern world.' Clinton promised to discuss in their meeting Indonesia's control of the former Portuguese colony of East Timor, but indicated he was unwilling to back demands for a referendum among its people to decide their future. Clinton said, 'We have to do what we think is most likely to achieve our overriding objective, which is to give those people a chance to have the lives of decency and integrity. And sometimes what seems obvious is maybe not the best course.' ---
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