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Bush backs Ukraine on Nato bid

Sitting beside President Viktor Yushchenko, Mr Bush said Kiev had made a bold decision to request membership and the US "strongly supported it".

Mr Bush said he would press Nato allies in Romania this week to support Membership Action Plans for both Ukraine and Georgia.

Russia is fiercely opposed to the eastward expansion of Nato.

Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin told a hearing of the lower house of the Russian parliament, the Duma, that Ukrainian membership of the Western alliance would "entail a deep crisis in Russian-Ukrainian relations".

He said Ukraine would become a buffer between Europe and Russia.

The West, he added, had to make a strategic choice because "this crisis will also affect in the most adverse way pan-European security too".

French Prime Minister Francois Fillon appeared to agree with the Russian assessment during a radio interview on Tuesday.

"We think that it is not a good answer to the balance of power within Europe and between Europe

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