NATO invites Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia to join pre-membership program

Wednesday, November 29th 2006, 5:06 am
By: News On 6

RIGA, Latvia (AP) NATO leaders on Wednesday invited Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina to begin negotiations for eventual membership in the military alliance, but urged Serbia and Bosnia to fully cooperate with the U.N. war crimes tribunal.

NATO said at the end of a two-day summit that the three countries can offer "valuable contribution'' to stability in the Balkans, and that their membership in the Partnership for Peace NATO pre-membership outreach program is important for the region.

The program includes many former Eastern bloc countries and is considered a stepping stone toward full NATO membership.

Serbia and Bosnia were earlier excluded from the program because of their failure to apprehend the two leading war crimes suspects indicted by the U.N. tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague, Netherlands, former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and his wartime military chief, Gen. Ratko Mladic.

The move to offer membership to Serbia appears to be part of an effort to defuse the growing influence of nationalist hard-liners there ahead of parliamentary elections next month.

"We strongly support the ongoing reform processes and want to encourage further positive developments in the region on its path towards Euro-Atlantic integration,'' NATO leaders said in a statement.