DATE=5/24/2000 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=NATO MINISTERS (L) NUMBER=2-262759 BYLINE=RON PEMSTEIN DATELINE=FLORENCE CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: NATO foreign ministers meeting in Italy have expressed concern about a proposed U-S missile defense system. V-O-A's Ron Pemstein has this report from the NATO ministers meeting in Florence. TEXT: The foreign ministers of France and Germany have raised questions about the perceived missile threat the United States sees from so-called rogue states like North Korea or Iran. French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine expressed concern about potential repercussions from Russia's refusal to adjust the 1972 Anti-Ballistic missile treaty. The United States has been seeking adjustments to the treaty to allow development of the proposed U-S missile defense. German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer says negative signals will be sent by any U-S decision that ignores Russia's opposition. NATO Secretary-General George Robertson says that despite the concerns, European members of NATO appreciated the assurances given by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright that negotiations with Russia are still in progress. /// ROBERTSON ACT /// It isn't a secret for me to tell you that there are some reservations about missile defense among some of the European allies. That is known. But they are being dealt with in a constructive way. And the president of the United States made it clear to me last November and Mrs. Albright made it crystal clear again today that the United States is interested in the views of all of the allies in NATO. /// END ACT /// President Clinton has still not decided to go ahead with the limited missile defense program, but Secretary of State Albright told her colleagues a decision on deployment is possible later this year. The Europeans are worried about the expense of matching the missile defense system and the chance that arms control treaties could unravel. /// rest opt /// Later, speaking to reporters, the Secretary of State says she does not believe Russia's opposition to changing the Anti-Ballistic missile treaty is the reason the Europeans are worried. /// ALBRIGHT ACT /// We have been briefing them and they need to understand that the N-M-D (National Missile Defense) system is not directed against them, that it is designed to deal with these new threats that we have identified, and I think they need to absorb that lesson. How their thinking and that of the Europeans is connected is hard for me to tell. /// END ACT /// The NATO ministers also talked about the European Union's plan to develop its own military capacity for operations where the NATO alliance does not want to become involved. The foreign ministers praised the European Union for agreeing to consult the six European NATO members who are not members of the Union. Turkey, Norway, and Iceland have been concerned about the E-U requesting NATO equipment without taking their views into account. (Signed) NEB/RDP/JWH 24-May-2000 12:50 PM EDT (24-May-2000 1650 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .