Thursday, October 26, 2006

Senior U.S. official encourages Macedonia to continue with reforms

SKOPJE, Macedonia A senior U.S. official on Monday encouraged Macedonia to press ahead with reforms that will increase the tiny Balkan country's chances of joining the EU and NATO.

Rosemary DiCarlo, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs who arrived on Monday for a two-day visit, voiced support for Macedonia's goal of joining both.

"We support your aspirations and we share your values," DiCarlo told reporters after meeting with Foreign Minister Antonio Milososki. "We are working very closely with Macedonia to make the needed reforms and we want to make this country the strongest candidate for joining NATO."

Macedonia, Croatia and Albania, members of the so-called Adriatic group, are all hoping for early invitations to join NATO. The alliance has refused to set a date, but says expansion will feature strongly at a summit scheduled for 2008.

DiCarlo reiterated that Macedonia should continue with its judicial and police reforms, intensify its fight against corruption and ensure religious freedoms.

Macedonia applied for EU membership in March 2004 and was accepted as a candidate last year, after the European Commission praised the country for stemming an ethnic Albanian insurgency in 2001.

DiCarlo also met with Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and other government officials.

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