NATO summit in Bucharest enters second day

Thursday, April 3, 2008

President George W. Bush and Mrs. Laura Bush yesterday, with Romania’s President Traian Basescu and Mrs. Maria Basescu, left, and NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and Mrs. Jeannine de Hoop Scheffer during the NATO Summit official greeting at the Cotroceni Palace in Bucharest.
Image: White House/Chris Greenberg.

One of the biggest gatherings of world leaders, the 20th annual NATO summit which began on Wednesday continued today in Bucharest.

NATO leaders begin negotiations in earnest over Afghanistan Thursday, after the opening day of their summit in Bucharest saw a successful French offer of more troops, but a public disagreement over the alliance's enlargement.

In the morning, the heads of the 26-strong alliance will hold their first formal working session, picking up on the themes of Wednesday's dinner - enlargement, Kosovo and Afghanistan, plus other issues.

The conflict of interests involves a delicate diplomatic brinkmanship between NATO's historic open-door policy and Russia's feeling that the alliances' borders are growing too close for comfort.

At the Bucharest summit, Albania and Croatia too will begin the formal process of their membership.

NATO's backing of a United States missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic has been harshly condemned by Vladimir Putin, who will be making his first appearance at this year's summit to express his fears of a new arms race.

The leaders of Albania and Croatia will get their first taste of NATO's highest body, when they sit with their counterparts, alongside Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, in a special session.

The ambitions of Macedonia, the southernmost of the former Yugoslav republics -- have been challenged by neighbour Greece in a dispute over its official name.

Greece refuses to recognise the former Yugoslav republic's name because it is the same as that of the northern Greek province of Macedonia and Athens worries that this could imply a claim on its territory.


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