Senate urges NATO to extend memberships

Legislation passed by the US Senate urges NATO to act quickly to make Albania, Croatia, Georgia and Macedonia full members of the alliance. The bill, passed without dissent Thursday night, also authorizes aid to help bring the four countries' forces to levels required for NATO membership. "I believe that eventual NATO membership for Albania, Croatia, Georgia and Macedonia would be a success for Europe, NATO and the United States by continuing to extend the zone of peace and security," Sen. Dick Lugar, Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who sponsored the bill, said Friday. Albania, Croatia and Macedonia have participated since 2002 in NATO's Membership Action Plan, which expedites the candidate country's way on the path to NATO. Georgia is not a member of the plan but has expressed the desire to join NATO and has been working to build its forces to support its candidacy. The House of Representatives has not acted on a similar bill. Lugar's spokesman, Andy Fisher, said the senator hopes the House will act during its shortened session next month before its Christmas recess. Otherwise, the bill would have to be reintroduced in the next Congress, which begins in January.