NATO continues to back Macedonia's bid for membership

14:31, January 16, 2010      

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NATO would invite Macedonia to join the alliance immediately after it settled the name row with Greece, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Friday.

In meeting with Prime Minister of Macedonia Nikola Gruevksi at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Rasmussen expressed his gratitude for Macedonia's growing contribution to NATO's mission in Afghanistan.

As a member of NATO-led international forces in Afghanistan, Macedonia announced at the end of last year that it would increase the number of its troops in Afghanistan from 190 to 250 in 2010.

The NATO secretary general also pledged his support for Macedonia's bid for membership and hoped it could become a member of NATO as soon as possible, which is expected to contribute to security and stability of the Balkan region.

Gruevski said joining NATO and the European Union remained as the country's top priority and it would negotiate with Greek to seek a solution that can make both sides satisfied.

Greece has opposed international recognition of its northern neighbor under the name Macedonia since the break-up of Yugoslaviain 1991.

Athens claims that Macedonia's name implies territorial claims against Greece's own northern province, also called Macedonia. It already vetoed Macedonia's NATO aspirations over the row in 2008.

Source: Xinhua
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