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 Thursday, 21 November, 2002, 16:09 GMT
Leaders welcome Nato expansion
Nato leaders meeting in Prague
Nato brought in seven new members in Prague
Nato leaders meeting in Prague have invited the former communist countries of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia to join the alliance.

Here is a selection of quotes from European leaders.

"Lithuania deserves this because it has been preparing for membership very honestly, continuously and consistently... The whole of Lithuania understands very well the importance of this event and is ready to be an active Nato member and to take part in [operations] wherever necessary in order to secure peace and prevent bloodshed in the world."

Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas

"Let us ask ourselves: why are we joining? Do we really have to? The answer is simple - yes, we do. The Estonian people have again and again suffered attacks from aggressive foreign forces. Who can say today that neo-Stalinism and neo-Nazism may not rule again in 20, 30 or 40 years' time?"

Estonian Prime Minister Siim Kallas

"We should not assume that Bulgaria's accession to Nato ends in Prague... The invitation is a good cause for satisfaction that Bulgaria's enhanced international prestige has been acknowledged, but it should not occasion needless fanfare and needless euphoria because, as we join the rich nations' club, we must realize that we have a lot more work to do to achieve their living standard."

Bulgarian President Georgi Purvanov

"I see this as an important step in Slovakia's history - how many countries would be keen to be inside but have not yet been included. Let us be happy that we have boarded a train which will take us to the EU and which creates a better life for us in future - for our entire country and all our citizens."

Slovak President Rudolf Schuster

"We should not expect Nato membership to solve our problems. We must solve our economic problems in Romania... Romanians will finally feel that we are joining the rest of the world."

Romanian President Ion Iliescu

"Slovenia will be able to take its part of responsibility for peace and security in this region, in Europe and in the world... Slovenia needs to take care of its defence. It cannot make others responsible for its security in the time of all these new threats to peace and security."

Slovene President Milan Kucan

"A historic moment at which, like in Copenhagen in a few weeks' time, Europe is finally getting together so that little by little it will become one. Also a moment at which Europe and North America are affirming their shared values and the indivisible nature of their security."

French President Jacques Chirac

"This is a great satisfaction for Poland. From the very start we have supported this process, sharing experience and building mutual trust... I am convinced the decision will strengthen the alliance."

Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski

"We regard this enlargement as very important not just because several medium or smaller-sized European countries will be given new guarantees of their defence and security, or because these countries will assume their responsibility for peace and live in freedom throughout the great Euro-Atlantic space.

"Of more importance is the indirect meaning of this enlargement. It is this enlargement which is a clear signal not just for all Europeans, but for the whole world, that the era when countries were forcefully divided into spheres of influence, or even the era of the stronger countries imposing their will on the weaker ones, is definitely over."

Czech President Vaclav Havel

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

Expanding Nato

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See also:

20 Nov 02 | Middle East
16 Oct 02 | Politics
19 Nov 02 | Europe
19 Nov 02 | Europe
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