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German Chancellor Backs EU 'Associate' Status for Ukraine

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has backed an agreement to bring Ukraine closer to the European Union, and renewed her pledge that the former Soviet republic will some day join NATO.

Ms. Merkel spoke Monday in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, alongside Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko. Both leaders praised the so-called "association agreement" on EU-Ukrainian ties. But the German leader again said it will not guarantee Ukraine full EU membership.

Chancellor Merkel also said Germany and other NATO countries will work with the Kyiv government on a plan to guide the country toward membership in the military alliance.

Earlier this year, NATO denied Kyiv access to a membership action plan, seen as a roadmap to eventually joining the alliance. Russia has threatened unspecified retaliation against any additional NATO presence on its borders.

Moscow specifically warned it would be forced to take military and other measures if the former Soviet republics of Ukraine and Georgia join the Western military alliance.

Western leaders have also noted strong NATO opposition in eastern Ukraine, where much of the country's Russian-speaking population backs Moscow in opposing closer ties with the West.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.