Washington, 20 June 1997 (RFE/RL) -- Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea is due to return to Romania today following a week-long visit to Washington aimed at strengthening defense and economic ties.
Ciorbea met this week with many high-level U.S. officials, including Vice President Al Gore, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott.
A State Department statement released yesterday said the U.S. has given Romania encouragement that its efforts to join NATO will succeed if it continues reforms. Romania's bid for NATO membership in the first round was rejected last week by the U.S.
The statement said Albright stressed to Ciorbea in a meeting Wednesday the importance to the U.S. of its relations with Romania. Talbott also expressed "full support" for Romania's goal of integration into Euro-Atlantic structures.
State Department spokesman John Dinger later said that Talbott's comments do not mean the U.S. has already decided to back Romania in a second-round of NATO expansion. Ciorbea quoted Gore as saying on Wednesday, however, that Washington will support Romania in the next round if it continues reforms.