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NATO: Bush Welcomes Lithuanians, Romanians Into Alliance

Bucharest; Vilnius; 23 November 2002 -- U.S. President George W. Bush made quick stops in Lithuania and Romania today to embrace two of the seven nations newly invited to join NATO. On Bucharest's Revolution Square, Bush told tens of thousands of Romanians that their nation will bring "moral clarity" to NATO, because they knew the difference between good and evil. The square was the site of the 1989 revolt that toppled the communist rule of Nicolae Ceausescu.

Romanian President Ion Iliescu said that throughout history the U.S. had been Romania's friend, and now Romania will be proud to call the U.S. its ally.

Bush also said, to great cheers from the crowd, that "The path of freedom you have chosen is not easy, but it is the only path worth taking. I know that your hardships did not end with your oppression. America respects your labor, your patience, your daily determination to find a better life. Your effort has been recognized by an offer to NATO membership. We welcome Romania into NATO. NATO's invitation to join is also a vote of confidence that you will continue the hard work of political, economic and military reform. And, as you do, you will have partners in all the nations of NATO."

He continued: "The promises of our alliance are sacred and we will keep our pledges to all the nations that join us. Should any danger threaten Romania, should any nation threaten Romania, the United States of America and NATO will be by your side."

Earlier in Vilnius, Bush said the people of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia will never again stand alone in the face of aggression.... The long night of fear, uncertainty, and loneliness is over. You're joining the strong and growing family of NATO. Our alliance has made a solemn pledge of protection. And anyone who would choose Lithuania as an enemy has also made an enemy of the United States of America."

Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus presented Bush with a large silver star medal and sash as thanks for his support for Lithuania's invitation to NATO.

The invitation to join NATO was extended to Lithuania, Romania, and five other former communist countries by Bush and 18 other NATO leaders on 21 November at a NATO Summit in Prague.