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Petition launched for NATO vote

ON JANUARY 14 a new civic initiative started collecting signatures in support of a referendum on NATO entry.

According to the constitution, the government is not obliged to put NATO membership to a public vote. However, the president must call a referendum on any topic if 350,000 people or more sign a petition requesting it.

The Initiative for a Referendum on Slovakia's Entry into NATO, which is organising the petition, says a vote on NATO entry should be combined with the planned referendum on Slovakia's entry into the EU, planned for May 16-17. It argues that such a move would save money and ensure higher voter turnout.

In order to make this possible, all 350,000 signatures must be collected by mid-March, a feat that Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda doubts the initiative will be able to pull off.

Dzurinda and other members of the ruling coalition oppose a joint referendum, saying that uncertain voter support for NATO entry may affect the outcome of the referendum on EU entry, whose positive result is required in order for Slovakia to accede in 2004.

Coalition members say a referendum on NATO entry is not necessary as it is not required by the constitution and voters clearly displayed their support for membership when they voted for pro-NATO parties in parliamentary elections last September.

- Lukáš Fila

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