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NATO -- Candidate Countries Meeting In Bucharest

Bucharest, 25 March 2002 (RFE/RL) -- A meeting of leaders from 10 Central and Eastern European countries that hope to join NATO is due to open today in the Romanian capital Bucharest. The two-day conference -- which is being called "The Spring of New Allies" -- comes in advance of NATO's summit in Prague this November, when the alliance is expected to issue a number of membership invitiations.

Leaders from Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia are expected to attend the Bucharest meeting.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage is also expected to attend.

NATO last expanded in 1999, bringing in the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland.