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Deputy U.S. Secretary of State Richard Armitage, left, listens to Romanian Premier Adrian Nastase, center, as Bulgarian Premier Simeon Saxcoburggotski, right, looks on before the opening of a two-day conference in Bucharest Monday March 25, 2002. Leaders of 10 Central and Eastern European countries hoping to join NATO want to tell the alliance at the meeting Monday that they can help boost security in the post-Sept. 11 world. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)


U.S. deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage (L) walks with Romanian Prime Minister Adrian Nastase (C) and Bulgarian Prime-minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg (R) in Bucharest, March 25, 2002 at a summit of east European countries who hope to be invited to join NATO later this year. The "Spring of New Allies" meeting aims to present a united front of applicants to existing alliance members in the run-up to the decision on admitting new states in November. REUTERS/Bogdan Cristel


Czech Premier Milos Zeman, left, leans towards Croatian Premier Ivica Racan, center, as Macedonia's Premier Liubko Georgievski, right, looks on before the opening of a two-day conference in Bucharest Monday, March 25, 2002. Leaders of 10 Central and Eastern European countries hoping to join NATO want to tell the alliance at the meeting Monday that they can help boost security in the post-Sept. 11 world. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

"The command of the International mission in Macedonia will probably change in autumn, because the European defense system should become operational by then and should be capable of taking over NATO's mandate," Brussels' expert on defense, security and air industry Elaine Bet El assessed.
Bet El is from Israel and was UN political advisor in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the 90's. As MIA reports, she believes that "the announced change in the Mission in Macedonia will not be felt on the field, because nothing will be changed for the Macedonians and the common soldiers from the European countries."
"However, EU and NATO must resolve many complex relations, starting from the Greek-Turkish dispute regarding the Alliance's cooperation with the future European Rapid Reaction Forces. At this moment, EU and NATO discuss the issue where the Macedonian Mission's headquarters would be located and who will command with it. According to Saint Malo agreement, NATO's deputy commander for Europe, which should command the mission in Macedonia, must be from Europe. That person is based in Monse, and the command of the European forces is in Brussels. So who will have to move is not a simple issue for the complex bureaucracy of EU and NATO. Whatever Javier Solana and George Robertson decide, they must consider the hierarchical setup of NATO and US reaction. However, these problems are likely to be resolved because the operation in Macedonia is exceptionally important for EU, which after the gaffs in Bosnia and on Kosovo realized that it must increase its defense capability," Bet El said.
According to her it is unclear whether the Mission in Macedonia would really meet EU needs and would contribute towards the European security.
"After the 11 September events, NATO that is obliged for defense of Europe is even less interested for performing its main duty. US might start ignoring NATO as collective partner if they assess that do not need the Alliance anymore, and they can also do that due to the fact that the European forces are in quite bad shape. Because the defense budgets in the EU member-countries decline, the perspectives of the European defense are not glorious," Bet El emphasized.
Macedonia and Ukraine have great potentials for upgrading of their relations, Macedonian Foreign Minister Slobodan Casuke said Monday in Kiev after a meeting with his Ukrainian counterpart Anatoly Zlenko.
"Both countries are committed to become part of Europe but such objective requires economic development-the most significant task for Macedonia and Ukraine, " Casule said.
Extending gratitude on behalf of the people of Macedonia for the Ukrainian support of the country in its most difficult period, Casule said that time had come to speak for the perspective of both countries.
"Macedonia will not allow to be involved in another crisis in the region. In this respect, the country highly appreciates the Ukranian support in the international organizations, such as the United Nations and OSCE, which are significant for Macedonia's stability and integrity, " Casule said.
He expressed hope that today's meeting with his Ukrainian counterpart Zlenko would give a fresh momentum to the relations of both countries.
"I'll be very happy if we manage to intensify the cultural and tourist cooperation in peaceful and stable conditions, to integrate spiritually, as we had been one thousand years ago, when ancient Kiev and Ohrid were centers of the Slavic universe, " Casule said.
Asked whether the Ukraine continued to deliver weaponry to Macedonia, Casule said that Macedonia and the Ukraine were serious and sovereign countries.
"They know how to make responsible decisions, particularly on issues related with their interests, including the security ones. Accordingly, our agreement is a result of responsible decision making, not of pressure. We have closed the issue on purchasing of weaponry, but the military-technical cooperation between both countries will continue with new productive activities.
Macedonia is counting on the Ukrainian support, particularly in training of the Macedonian army. We have made this decision because Macedonia is stable now. Therefore, today we have focused on the economic cooperation," Casule said.
"The relations between Macedonia and Ukraine are an example for strong partnership, based on mutual respect and confidence," Zlenko said.
He said that the meeting was focused on economic cooperation.
"There are many unexploited possibilities in the economic cooperation and we have discussed about realizing of several joint projects, such as a construction of the European corridors 3,5 and 8, " Zlenko said.
The Ministers also discussed on faster implementing of the Free Trade Agreement and signing of the customs cooperation document, which will intensify the trade exchange between both countries.
Zlenko welcomed the activities of Macedonia for political stabilization and interethnic agreement on the country's development.
He reiterated the Ukrainian support of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Macedonia.
Earlier, Casule met with Chairman of the Ukrainian Parliament Supreme Rada Ivan Pliushch and Prime Minister Anatoly Kinakh.

Bucharest, March 25 (BTA spec. corr. Petko Azmanov) - There is no final decision yet on which countries to invite to join NATO at the NATO Summit in Prague, NATO Secretary General George Robertson said on Monday in his address to the participants in a forum of the Vilnius Group of countries in Bucharest. At the forum Bulgaria is represented by Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha and Foreign Minister Solomon Passy.
In his videotaped address, Lord Robertson said that the Prague Summit will choose between one and nine states. He called on the candidates to double their efforts to prepare for NATO. "There is still a lot to be done, but there is also enough time until November," the NATO Secretary General said.
In his address to the participants in the forum US President George Bush said he was encouraged by the progress in preparations for NATO membership.
President Bush assured the participants in the USA's firm support of their efforts. The address was read by US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage.
In their statements the prime ministers of Turkey and Greece - Bulent Ecevit and Costas Simitis, expressed support for NATO enlargement in Southeastern Europe.
Ecevit said Ankara had no political reservations to any of the candidate states meeting the requirements for full membership. "Naturally, bearing in mind our geostrategic location, we would like Southeastern Europe to be included in NATO enlargement. Enlargement in this direction would contribute to establishing security and stability in this vulnerable region," the Turkish prime minister said.
In his address to the participants in the meeting Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis also noted that along with other allies, his country also supports the Balkan dimensions of enlargement because it believes that this process would definitely contribute to the overall military, social and economic security in the region.
Romanian President Ion Iliescu said in his speech that the final decision on NATO enlargement will be above all political. He said that at their Bucharest meeting the ten candidates wish to send a strong political signal of their firm will to contribute to strengthening peace, security and prosperity in Europe and consolidating Euro-Atlantic solidarity.
Belgrade, March 25 (BTA) - Bulgarian Finance Minister Milen Velchev is participating in a meeting of the finance ministers of the countries of Southeastern Europe, which opened in Belgrade on Monday. The forum is hosted by Bozidar Djelic, the Serbian Finance and Economy Minister, the Finance Ministry in Sofia said.
The meeting will focus on the common interests in the fight against money smuggling and laundering. The ministers exchanged information on the best practices in the tax policy and the public expenditure system of each individual country. All finance ministers have rallied round the idea that Southeastern Europe should be popularized as an attractive region for investment.

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