By Ron Loggans and Kitty McKinsey
Madrid, 8 July 1997 (RFE/RL) - NATO officials say alliance heads of state meeting in Madrid reached a consensus today on inviting the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland to begin accession talks with the trans-Atlantic alliance. RFE/RL correspondents in Madrid quote NATO officials as saying that the decision came during an intense, sometimes "passionate" meeting of NATO leaders.
Today's historic decision ends lengthy speculation about which states would be asked to join a first round of expansion. It means Romania, Slovenia and other Central and Eastern European states will now have to wait for a future round of enlargement. Several NATO members, led by France, had publicly endorsed inviting Romania and Slovenia in a first wave of new members. But the U.S. and Britain said they wanted only the three states invited today.
Our correspondents quote NATO officials as saying that alliance foreign ministers are now working on a communique which will offer inducements to other states from the region to continue to pursue membership. They said the document will likely make specific reference to Romania and Slovenia.