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Secretary of State James A. Baker III invited the Soviet Union Tuesday to join the political and economic alliance between Europe and the United States - if it is willing to adopt the West's free-market economy.

"Our objective is both a Europe whole and free, and a free Euro-Atlantic community that extends east from Vancouver to Vladivostok" in the eastern reaches of the Soviet Union, Baker said in a speech prepared for a Berlin meeting of the Aspen Institute, an American study group.This community, he said, would seek to break down economic divisions between the wealthy West and its poorer neighbors.

"I hope (Soviet) President (Mik-hail) Gorbachev now brings forward a new effort at serious market reform," Baker added. "The door to the Euro-Atlantic community is open. But only the Soviets can decide to step over the threshold."

Baker also warned that 19th century animosities among the peoples of Europe has resurfaced to threaten the stability of the continent as it emerges from the shadow of communism.

"With the collapse of communism, ethnicity has re-emerged as a powerful political force threatening to erect new divisions between countries and, even more acutely, within multinational states," he said.

This was a reference to Yugoslavia, whose six republics are being buffeted by fierce ethnic rivalries. In a bid to head off the collapse of Yugoslavia's central authority, Baker said Monday he would travel to Belgrade later this week to deliver an appeal for unity.

Baker's speech was to follow a visit he made Tuesday to the hometown of German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher. The town of Halle is in what was formerly communist East Germany and provided Baker an opportunity to see how that region has changed since being united with West Germany last year.

In Halle, Baker said the United States had a 12-point plan to provide assistance to Eastern Europe. "Although we are indeed an ocean away, our hearts reach out to any people who have been striving for freedom," Baker said in a speech. "We are pursuing a 12-point program to support you. We are responding to the appeal of Chancellor (Helmut) Kohl during his visit to Washington last month."

Baker arrived in Berlin on Monday to attend a conference of the 34-nation Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, or CSCE, which includes all the countries of Europe, except Albania, along with the United States and Canada.

The meeting, the first to bring together the foreign ministers of the CSCE for regular consultations, will debate how best to remove the economic barriers between Eastern and Western Europe.