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Balkan States To Step Up Military Cooperation --> Members of a special unit of the Macedonian army being instructed by a U.S. trainer (file photo) (epa) October 23, 2006 -- The military chiefs-of-staff from Croatia, Macedonia, and Albania today agreed to increase thier cooperation in an effort to boost their countries' bids to join NATO.

They also expressed a readiness to exchange their experiences of modernizing their armies with any other countries in the region that may seek membership of the alliance.

Albania, Croatia, and Macedonia hope to join NATO by 2008.

Meanwhile, in Skopje, the U.S. deputy assistant secretary for European and Eurasian affairs encouraged Macedonia to press ahead with reforms that will increase the country's chances of joining the EU and NATO.

After meeting with Macedonian Foreign Minister Antonio Milososki, Rosemary DiCarlo said reforms of the judiciary and police force and intensifying the fight against corruption needed special attention.