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DateLine Sunday, 6 April 2008

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Bush regrets Macedonia not invited into NATO

WASHINGTON: US President George W. Bush on Saturday expressed regret that the Balkan nation of Macedonia was not invited to join NATO, alongside Croatia and Albania.

“I regret that NATO was not able to extend an invitation to a third nation, Macedonia, at this week’s summit,” Bush said in his weekly radio address.

Albania and Croatia that were formally invited in Bucharest to join the alliance and will become the 27th and 28th members of NATO once the accession and ratification process has been finalised, which alliance officials hope can be accomplished within a year.

But Bush insisted that Macedonia was no less ready for NATO membership.

“Like Croatia and Albania, Macedonia has met all the criteria for NATO membership, he said. “Unfortunately, its invitation was delayed because of a dispute over its name.

“I made clear that the name issue should be resolved quickly, that NATO should intensify its engagement with Macedonia, and that we look forward to the day when this young democracy takes its place among the members of the NATO Alliance.”

Macedonia’s bid to join the 26-member alliance was nixed by Athens in a long-running row over the right to the name Macedonia, which is shared by a northern Greek province.

Macedonia stormed out of the NATO summit in protest after Greece’s veto.

AFP

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