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Bush, NATO Chief Meet Before Bucharest Summit

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 29, 2008 – President Bush today welcomed NATO’s secretary general at the White House, where the two met ahead of the upcoming NATO summit in Bucharest, Romania.

The president praised Jaap de Hoop Scheffer’s strong leadership and thanked the NATO chief for helping transform the multinational organization to deal with 21st-century security threats.

“You've done your job with great dignity and clarity of thought,” Bush told de Hoop Scheffer. “And I'm looking forward to coming to Bucharest to support your efforts to make sure NATO is a relevant organization aimed at bringing security and peace to the world.”

The 20th NATO summit will bring together representatives from 24 member states and allied nations April 2-4 in the Romanian capital to discuss NATO’s role in Afghanistan and the prospect of enlarging the alliance.

“The United States is committed to the NATO mission in Afghanistan,” Bush said. “We're committed to a comprehensive strategy that helps folks in Afghanistan realize security, at the same time, economic prosperity and political process.”

On NATO enlargement, the president encouraged prospective member states -- which include Albania, Macedonia and Croatia -- to continue to meet terms outlined by the alliance’s Membership Action Plan. Current member states at the summit will vote on whether to invite the nations.

“We’re looking forward to getting an assessment (from you) of the progress that these three nations have made … before we take the vote on enlargement,” Bush told de Hoop Scheffer.

Georgia, Montenegro and Ukraine have expressed interest in pursuing Membership Action Plans.

The president expressed appreciation for NATO's role in helping provide “some sense of stability” in the Balkans and for undertaking a training mission in Iraq. “Overall, thanks for being a force for good,” he said.

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