US Reaffirms Support for Bigger NATO
The United States reaffirmed its support Friday for NATO enlargement into Europe's once-communist east, but warned that aspiring member states need to make efforts on their part.
"The enlargement of NATO is a natural accompaniment to the evolution of a democratic and undivided Europe," Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said at a meeting of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council.
"It threatens no one, and will help us all to expand the area within Europe where wars simply do not happen," she said, according to a text of her speech distributed to journalists.
But she added that "the exact timing and scope" of enlargement hinged upon "a vigorous effort by the aspirants to improve their candidacies and implement their membership action plans."
Three former communist states -- Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland -- joined NATO last year. Hoping to join them are Albania, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.
They were all represented at Friday's meeting, which brings to the same table the 19 NATO allies and 27 mainly eastern European states including Russia, which is wary of NATO enlargement -- BRUSSELS (AFP)
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