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Defense Secretary William S. Cohen expressed satisfaction with progress by Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic toward NATO membership but warned that they will have to bear most of the costs of attaining alliance standards.

"There is no free lunch," Cohen said Thursday.

Speaking at the end of an informal two-day session of NATO defense ministers, Cohen also said he and his colleagues agreed on a "gradual drawdown" of NATO's 35,000 peacekeepers in Bosnia. The reduction will not begin until next year after a decision on the size of the withdrawal leading to the end of the current peacekeeping mission in June 1998.

The secretary would not specify whether U.S. or allied forces will have a military role in Bosnia afterward but said merely that the focus should be to support the Dayton peacekeeping accords. At present, about 9,000 Americans are part of the NATO Stabilization Force.

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