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NATO: Assembly Recommends Seven New Members

Sofia, 28 May 2002 (RFE/RL) -- NATO's parliamentary assembly has recommended that seven candidate countries be invited to join the alliance at NATO's Prague summit in November. The seven countries are Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

A NATO parliamentary assembly resolution, adopted during a meeting in the Bulgarian capital Sofia, praises the progress of the seven countries toward meeting NATO membership criteria.

NATO member states Italy and Germany proposed the resolution. There were 65 votes in favor and 29 abstentions.

Earlier today, at a military base near Rome, Russian President Vladimir Putin and the leaders of the 19 NATO nations signed a declaration creating a new NATO-Russia council to give Moscow a voice alongside NATO on some security issues.

Putin called the new council "only a beginning" of closer ties between Russia and its Cold War NATO adversary.

U.S. President George W. Bush called the Rome Declaration an "historic achievement." Bush said the NATO-Russia partnership brings the alliance closer to the larger goal of a Europe that is free, whole, and at peace.

NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson lauded the declaration for bringing together nations from "Vancouver to Vladivostok" in the fight against terrorism.

The new council gives Russia an equal voice with the NATO countries on issues ranging from the fight against global terrorism to nonproliferation. However, Russia will not have veto power over NATO decisions.