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NATO Tested by Search For New Leader

WESTERN leaders have paid generous tribute to NATO Secretary-General Manfred Woerner but now face the difficult task of finding someone to replace the man who led the alliance into a new role after the cold war.

Woerner, the first German to head the alliance, died Saturday after holding the job for six years.

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Barely one month after a contentious effort to find the successor to Jacques Delors as president of the European Commission, European allies, the United States, and Canada must now agree on a candidate for the top NATO job.

NATO sources said they expected meetings to discuss the issue within the next few weeks. The US, the 16-nation alliance's senior member, commands the military wing of NATO, but a European has always held the top political post.

Woerner's replacement will need strong leadership and diplomatic skills at a time when NATO is deeply involved in Bosnia and in trying to build security across Europe.

His forceful leadership, including a drive to establish cooperation with former Warsaw Pact foes, was widely respected.

Two possible successors are Thorvald Stoltenberg, a former Norwegian foreign minister who is the United Nations peace mediator in the former Yugoslavia, and former Italian Prime Minister Giuliano Amato.

NATO is now working with the UN in former Yugoslavia, and diplomats say Mr. Stoltenberg would be a good candidate for that reason. NATO Deputy Secretary-General Sergio Balanzino, an Italian bureaucrat, will head the alliance until a successor is found. Russian blasts troop withdrawal

THE commander of Russian troops in Moldova Sunday denounced plans to withdraw his forces back to Russia and abolish the Army command structure.

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Lt. Gen. Alexander Lebed told a news conference an Army shake-up and three-year withdrawal plan agreed to last week between Russia and Moldova would lead to an explosive situation with the risk of huge arms thefts.

General Lebed, a charismatic paratrooper who is Russia's most popular military officer, suggested he might quit unless he managed to get the decisions reversed.

He said the withdrawal plan, announced last Wednesday, should be held up until there is a final political settlement between Moldova and its breakaway Trans-Dniester region, where the 15,000 troops of the Russian 14th Army are stationed.

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