Sintra, Portugal; 29 May 1997 (RFE/RL) - U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said today that nations from the East invited to join in a first round of NATO expansion must meet "the highest possible standard." New members must have instituted reforms and demonstrated an ability to meet all obligations of membership. At the same time, she said the alliance must make clear its doors will remain open for later entry by states not invited to join at a July NATO summit.
Albright made the comment at a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Sintra, Portugal.
Observers say the United States wants to limit the first group to top candidates Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary. Other NATO members back Slovenia and Romania.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Hennady Udovenko today initialled a security pact with the alliance in Sintra and called it a "very important document." It is due to be formally signed at the July summit in Madrid.
News agencies report that the accord gives Ukraine the right to call for "consultations" with NATO states if it feels threatened.
Correspondents say the deal stops short of the pact with Russia, but gives Kyiv many more advantages than other members of NATO's Partnership for Peace program.