Title: Claes: Moscow `Exaggerating' Norwegian Rocket Launch Document Number: FBIS-WEU-95-018 Document Type: Daily Report Document Date: 26 Jan 1995 Division: INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS Sourceline: AU2601192695 Paris AFP in English 1834 GMT 26 Jan 95 AFS Number: AU2601192695 Citysource: Paris AFP Language: English Article Type: BFN>
[FBIS Transcribed Text] Oslo, Jan 26 (AFP) -- Willy Claes, secretary-general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), said Thursday [26 Jan] that elements in Moscow might be exaggerating the security scare triggered by a failed Norwegian rocket launch "for internal political reasons." Ending an official visit here Thursday, Claes appealed to the press not to sensationalise the failure of the Norwegian weather rocket, which crashed near Norway's Spitzbergen Islands on Wednesday. "I cannot rule out that maybe somebody in Moscow is pushing this missile incident for internal political reasons," he said. "The Norwegian authorities announced the launch of this scientific missile properly last December, as the Russian ambassador in Oslo also rightly put it," Claes said. Claes said he "did not have all the details," but stressed that the malfunction was to be handled as a misunderstanding. In Moscow Russian President Boris Yeltsin suggested that the object -- erroneously described as a "combat missile" in initial Russian media reports -- had been fired to "test" Russian defences, the INTERFAX agency said. "Maybe it was aimed at testing us as the mass media is always saying our army is weak," Yeltsin was quoted as saying. The rocket was detected by Russia's early warning radar systems and touched off a security alert. Yeltin also revealed the incident marked the first time he ever held the key that could trigger a Russian nuclear alert. Several Russian and foreign observers described his declarations as "excessive" or "childish," and above all a political ploy to deflect attention from the war in Chechnya.