Albania, Croatia to be invited to join NATO

Albania and Croatia look all but certain of joining NATO while Macedonia's bid is to be discussed up to the very last minute by NATO leaders meeting in Bucharest, sources said Wednesday.

Albania, Croatia to be invited to join NATO
A delegation source said there was broad consensus on the fact that Albania and Croatia should be invited into the alliance.

But Macedonia's bid was being hampered by opposition from Athens, which is threatening to veto its entry because it views Macedonia's name as implying a territorial claim on Greece's northern province.

In comments seen as further confirmation of Albania and Croatia's strong chances, NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said he expected the alliance's leaders to welcome "several new members from south-east Europe" during the Bucharest summit.

The NATO chief was addressing a meeting of Young Atlanticists just hours before heads of government and state from NATO's 26 countries were due to gather in the Romanian capital.

"Our summit will demonstrate that ... consolidating Europe remains a major task for NATO. I expect that the summit will open NATO's door to several new members from South-East Europe," he said.

Some analysts had warned that Albania's chances might be linked to those of Macedonia, which has a sizeable Albanian population.

But NATO spokesman James Appathurai insisted the merits of each of the three applicants would be judged individually.

"What happens in the context of one country will not affect the aspirations of others," Appathurai said, noting that intense discussions on the Macedonia name dispute were still under way as leaders gathered in Bucharest.

De Hoop Scheffer also said he expected NATO to create closer ties with other countries born from the collapse of the former Yugoslavia, as well as with Ukraine and Georgia.

"And that will also help make our continent more stable and more secure," he said.

Such comments were unlikely to go down well in Moscow, where officials have already warned that offering membership action plans to Ukraine and Georgia, which both border Russia, would lead to "a dramatic evolution" in NATO-Russia relations.

Germany is among a number of NATO members arguing that the alliance should tread carefully when dealing with the two former Soviet republics.

Appathurai acknowledged that there were divisions within the alliance on whether, and noted that the decision on whether to offer the two countries a Membership Action Plan was ultimately "political".

Last Mod: 02 Nisan 2008, 16:47
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