Monday, April 07, 2008

Bush sees NATO future for Macedonia

President George W. Bush assured Macedonia on Saturday that the United States wants it in NATO as soon as possible, along with other former Yugoslav republics.

In a speech in Croatia marking its formal invitation to join NATO this week, Bush said he looked forward to seeing all Balkan candidates join the Western alliance which marks its 60th birthday next year.

"America's position is clear: Macedonia should take its place in NATO as soon as possible," he said in a speech attended by Macedonian President Branko Crvenkovski and Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski.

The Macedonians walked out of a NATO summit in Romania when Greece blocked their invitation because of a long-running dispute over the country's name, which is that of Greece's northern province, birthplace of Greek hero Alexander the Great.

Bush welcomed progress by Montenegro and Bosnia towards NATO membership. Along with Croatia and Albania, which also received formal invitations from the NATO summit in Bucharest this week, NATO's Balkan enlargement would take the alliance to 31 members.

The president said he hoped that "soon a free and prosperous Serbia will find its rightful place in the family of Europe, and live at peace with its neighbours".

NATO is "open to all countries in the region", he said.

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