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U.S. Goals for NATO Summit Partially Met

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And I'm Michele Norris.

Today at the NATO Summit in Bucharest, membership issues dominated. Two countries - Albania and Croatia - were invited to join the alliance. Ukraine and Georgia were told they would get to join eventually, and Macedonia was told it will only be invited once it resolves the dispute with Greece over its name.

NPR's Michele Kelemen is in Bucharest.

MICHELE KELEMEN: It was a disappointing but not surprising day for Macedonia's delegation, which stormed out of the summit. Croatia and Albania, on the other hand, got a seat at the table, and Albania's Prime Minister Sali Berisha couldn't hide his enthusiasm.

Prime Minister SALI BERISHA (Albania): For me, this is a miracle. This is a miracle of freedom. Thank you very much for this great trust and order. Thank you. Thanks to all of you.

(Soundbite of applause)

KELEMEN: They were meeting in a massive palace built by former Romanian Dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. And Berisha said it was a reminder of his own country filled with Cold War-era bunkers. President Bush smiled as Berisha spoke and used his brief remarks to remind NATO of its power to help countries transform and how much new members have to offer. Many have sent troops to U.S.-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: These countries have brought new ideas, new enthusiasm and new vigor. NATO's embrace of these new members has made Europe stronger, safer and freer. These countries have made our alliance more relevant to the dangers we confront in the new century.

KELEMEN: The president's hopes of putting Ukraine and Georgia on a formal track for membership today were dashed by Germany and others worried about upsetting relations with Russia.

But White House officials say, at one point during the day, some of the newer NATO members surrounded Germany's chancellor, Angela Merkel, to hammer out a final communique that says the alliance does support eventual membership for those ex-Soviet states. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said this was evidence that Russia did not have an effect.

Secretary CONDOLEEZZA RICE (U.S. Department of State): If there was an open door, I think there is a now wide open door.

KELEMEN: On Afghanistan, White House officials said it's still too early to count up the number of new troops on offer, though it seems far short of the goals the U.S. had set. President Bush told NATO states that he'll move more American forces to the south to meet Canada's need for a partner in the fight against the Taliban. The U.S. is able to do that, thanks to a French troop offer from President Nicolas Sarkozy, who spoke through an interpreter.

President NICOLAS SARKOZY (France): (Through translator) I announce the additional 700 French troops to be sent there in order to secure what we are already doing in Afghanistan, and which will enable us to reorganize and help rebuild this country. And I think this is a clear measure of France wishing to occupy its rightful place in NATO.

KELEMEN: NATO members have also warmed up to the Bush administration's plans to put interceptor missiles in Poland and radar in the Czech Republic as part of a missile shield. In the communique, the alliance endorsed the plan, and National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley said the alliance recognized the protection this shield could offer, particularly from Iran, which the U.S. alleges is trying to develop missiles that could hit Europe.

Mr. STEPHEN HADLEY (Adviser, National Security Council): There has been over 10 years of real debate as to whether there is a ballistic missile threat, and I think that debate ended today.

KELEMEN: But it is a debate President Bush will still have to have with Russian President Vladimir Putin when they meet this weekend in Sochi. Putin is also to take part in what looks likely to be a contentious NATO-Russia Council meeting here in Romania tomorrow.

Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Bucharest Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Michele Kelemen has been with NPR for two decades, starting as NPR's Moscow bureau chief and now covering the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.