Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, Nato's secretary-general, has warned Vladimir Putin that next week's annual summit of the 26-member alliance must not be marked by a another display from the Russian president of "unhelpful rhetoric" directed at the west.

As the alliance members' heads of government prepare to meet in Bucharest, tensions between Nato and Russia are running high because of Washington's insistence that Ukraine and Georgia should be allowed to take a major new step towards joining the organisation.

"The volume of music we get next week will to a large extent depend on the tone that President Putin uses in the NRC," Mr de Hoop Scheffer told the Financial Times in an interview. "I do not know what that tone will be." However, he expressed his hope that Mr Putin, who will be attending a Nato summit for the first time, would not use the occasion to unveil another blunt threat to the west.

He said: "Let's try to avoid unhelpful rhetoric, like 'We will target missiles on nations A, B and C'. That is not only unhelpful, but it makes me remember a time when I was growing up when there was a Berlin wall and an Iron Curtain . . . So let us refrain from rhetoric."

But the insistence of George W. Bush, US president, that Ukraine and Georgia should be offered a chance to join Nato's Membership Action Plan, an important step on the road to full membership, has left some uncertainty about how the meeting will go.

Mr de Hoop Scheffer said he was not surprised at how hard the US was pressing for Ukraine and Georgia to join the MAP. The Financial Times reports.


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