Riga, 5 July 2002 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. Senate Republican leader Trent Lott today urged countries hoping to join NATO to work against corruption and intolerance as part of their efforts to join the alliance. Lott addressed leaders from 10 Eastern European countries at a meeting of NATO candidates, along with noncandidate Croatia, in the Latvian capital of Riga.
The senator warned candidate countries that the alliance will not let military cooperation outweigh the importance of addressing domestic problems like corruption, prejudice, and freedom of the press. "We take seriously the problems that still linger from the old order, like corruption and religious intolerance," Lott said. "For the promise to be fulfilled, the ancient maladies must be wiped out and individual liberty, free markets, and the rule of law restored."
But Lott supported the candidates' membership bids, calling for unity among allies large and small.
The meeting precedes a NATO summit in Prague this November that is expected to decide on the alliance's expansion. Albania, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Romania, Slovenia, and Slovakia are all bidding for invitations to join NATO at the autumn meeting.