» (E) 10 former communist countries seeking to join NATO
|(E) 10 former communist countries seeking to join NATO
|By Nenad N. Bach |
(E) 10 former communist countries seeking to join NATO
NATO would-be members reaffirm commitment in fight against global terror
Tue Mar 26,10:10 AM ET
By ALISON MUTLER, Associated Press Writer
BUCHAREST, Romania - Leaders of 10 former communist countries seeking to join NATO (news - web sites) pledged Tuesday to continue to fight global terrorism, saying stability in their East European region enhanced their chances of becoming members of the alliance.
In remarks closing a two-day conference gathering NATO hopefuls, Romanian Prime Minister Adrian Nastase said the region and NATO could cooperate to make Eastern Europe "a stronghold against the threats of the new century, terrorism, trans-border and organized crime, intolerance and extremism."
The meeting brought together government leaders from 10 countries that are candidates for NATO membership: Romania, Slovakia, Macedonia, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Albania, Croatia, Bulgaria and Slovenia.
The Bucharest gathering was one of a series ahead of a November NATO summit in Prague, the Czech capital. The alliance is then expected to announce new members, though it hasn't yet said which countries it will admit.
Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman, whose country became a NATO member in 1999, told the leaders the alliance was more than just a military group.
"There are two necessary conditions (for membership): Sharing common values — not just common weapons — and participating in the common fight against terrorism — not just by words, but by deeds," he said.
The Czech Republic, Poland, and Hungary were the first former communist countries to join the alliance.
Focusing on their geographical advantages, on the eastern rim of Europe, the 10 aspiring members meeting here said they could preserve stability in the region.
"The global war on terrorism has not only spurred us to complete the job of building a Europe whole and free, but it has also underscored the urgent need to consolidate stability in Southeastern Europe," the 10 said in a joint statement summing up the conference.
Poland Tells Europe to Ease Up on US
Mon Mar 25, 3:41 PM ET
By GEORGE JAHN, Associated Press Writer
BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) - Poland's president urged Europe to mute its criticism of Washington's war on terror, telling a summit of prospective NATO (news - web sites) members Monday that American lives were the first ones lost in the fight against "the evil" threatening the world.
Aleksander Kwasniewski's comments reflected a main topic of concern at the opening of the two-day summit — the changing threat facing NATO and its allies more than a decade after the collapse of the Soviet bloc removed the menace of large-scale conventional ground war in Europe.
The meeting brought together leaders from the 10 candidate countries — Romania, Slovakia, Macedonia, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Albania, Croatia, Bulgaria and Slovenia — as well as guests from NATO member states, like Kwasniewski, and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage.
The meeting is one of a series being held before a NATO summit in November in Prague, where the U.S.-led alliance will decide which countries to admit.
Armitage, delivering a message from President Bush (news - web sites), said that while the threats facing NATO have changed, its role should not be diminished in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks and solidarity among its members should be strong.
"As all civilized nations seek to address the threats of global terror, the bonds uniting NATO members are more important than ever," he said.
Kwasniewski, alluding to growing European opposition to any major expansion of Washington's war on terror beyond Afghanistan (news - web sites), urged U.S. allies to support the campaign against terrorism while also appealing to the United States to listen to European concerns.
"Let us not forget that it is the American soldiers that were the first to stand up to the evil" exhibited in the Sept. 11 attacks, he said. "They often paid the price of life — they continue to pay."
Romanian Prime Minister Adrian Nastase said the region's countries were ready to join the alliance and were already contributing as full NATO members in the war against terror.
"We have opened our air spaces, airfields and port facilities to Allied forces," Nastase said. "And we're now taking part in the (peacekeeping) mission in Afghanistan."
Bulent Ecevit, the prime minister of NATO-member Turkey, said the alliance was in the process of adapting to post-Cold War realities by focusing on new security threats and collaborating with former foes such as Russia.
"Military threats of a conventional and nuclear nature have diminished," Ecevit said. "But threats such as terrorism, nationalism, organized crime, drug trafficking and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction" are moving across borders.
He added that these new threats will be better tackled by an enlarged alliance and urged NATO to expedite the admission of southeastern European countries. "This dimension of enlargement will contribute to the extension of security and stability to this most sensitive area," Ecevit said.
Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Bulgaria, are regarded as candidates that stand a good chance of receiving invitations to join NATO at the November summit.
Albania, Macedonia and Croatia are considered less likely to be admitted because of lagging economic or political reforms or the legacy of Balkan warfare.
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