Kohl promises Nato talks on troop cuts

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BONN - Apparently trying to head off potential trouble with Washington, Chancellor Helmut Kohl promised yesterday not to shrink German military strength without consulting Nato.

On Saturday, at a weekend international security conference also attended by the US Defense Secretary, Les Aspin, Mr Kohl said he planned to make reductions in the Bundeswehr as a cost- cutting measure to help pay for German unification, and at the same time said he wanted American troops to remain in Germany.

Volker Ruhe, Germany's Defense Minister, had announced the troop-cutting plan last Wednesday. But the Munich meeting was apparently the first time many had heard about it.

A commentator on ARD television said Americans at the conference 'were astonished . . . that the Chancellor wants to shrink the Bundeswehr'. 'This announcement created considerable displeasure. This was expressed not at the conference but in the corridors.' said one newspaper. Manfred Worner, Secretary-General of Nato, said at the conference that Mr Kohl's announcement 'filled me with concern'.

Mr Kohl said yesterday: 'All decisions to be met in connection with this will of course be discussed with and done in agreement with Nato.'