Nato prepares pact to reassure Ukraine

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Nato is aiming to conclude a separate agreement with Ukraine, for endorsement at its Madrid summit, setting out relations between an enlarged alliance and the former Soviet republic, Michael Portillo, the Secretary of State for Defence, said yesterday. The mooted pact - part of a tapestry of moves to reassure East European countries which will not be in the first group of new Nato members in 1999 - is further evidence of how the negotiating emphasis is already shifting from expansion itself to its consequences for countries that will be excluded.

Separately, the alliance is seeking a beefed-up Atlantic Partnership Council to replace the Partnership for Peace initiative. This is designed to meet concerns of the three Baltic nations, which like Ukraine, fear they will be left in a no-man's-land between an aggressive Russia and a Nato extended - in all probability - to the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary. Rupert Cornwell - Washington