Washington, 11 December 1996 (RFE/RL) - U.S. President Bill Clinton yesterday re-stated his goal of seeing the NATO alliance accept new members "from among Europe's new democracies" by the time of NATO's 50th anniversary in 1999.
In remarks at a White House ceremony on the observance of International Human Rights Day, Clinton said "the prospect of NATO membership and integration into the West has been a very strong incentive for Europe's new democracies to expand their political freedoms and to promote universal human rights."
He said it was fitting that NATO foreign ministers announced on Human Rights Day that they will hold a summit in July to invite applicants from central and eastern Europe. No specific countries have been singled out for membership. However, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland are frequently mentioned as the most likely new members.
Russia is opposed to NATO expansion, but Clinton said that the alliance wants to forge a partnership with Russia to build "a Europe that is undivided, democratic and at peace for the first time in history."
Clinton noted that more than half the world's people "live under governments of their own choosing." And he said the United States is marking Human Rights Day by dedicating itself "to the unfinished task of extending freedom's reach."
The International Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations on December 10, 1948.