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Last Updated: Friday, 2 May, 2003, 13:40 GMT 14:40 UK
Nato boost to Balkan states
Colin Powell and Albanian Prime Minister Fatos Nano
Powell secured a pledge from Albania on the ICC

US Secretary of State Colin Powell has signed a partnership agreement with Albania, Macedonia and Croatia intended to help them on their way to Nato membership.

The US-Adriatic Partnership Charter was signed in the Albanian capital Tirana, where Mr Powell made a brief stopover en route to the Middle East.

Mr Powell also secured a pledge from Albania that it will not hand over any US citizens to the International Criminal Court.

The US will do everything possible to assist the people of Albania, Macedonia and Croatia to fulfil their potential and complete their journey back to the heart of Europe
Colin Powell

This will make Albania the 32nd country to sign an ICC pact with the US.

At the same time, he took the opportunity to thank the Albanian leadership for its support for the US-led war in Iraq.

Albania was among the first of many Eastern European countries to back the war.

It opened its air and naval bases for use by coalition forces and sent a detachment of peacekeepers to Iraq in mid-April.

Mr Powell was met by thousands of cheering Albanians, some carrying US flags.

Consolation

"The US will do everything possible to assist the people of Albania, Macedonia and Croatia to fulfil their potential and complete their journey back to the heart of Europe," he said at the signing.

The BBC's Gabriel Partos says the three have been temporarily left out of the Nato enlargement process, and this charter has been offered to them partly as a consolation prize.

It acknowledges that they are on the path to Nato membership, though only at a later stage.

It contains provisions for bilateral meetings between each of the three countries and the US at least twice a year.

Our correspondent says that Washington chose Tirana as a venue for the signing as a way of showing its appreciation for Albania's strong support for its Iraq policy.

Macedonia also gave its backing to Washington, but never as vociferously, and Croatia was more equivocal, he says.

Though Croatia was one of 10 countries to sign a declaration of support before the war, it was also one of the few ex-communist countries which did not open its airspace to US military flights.




SEE ALSO:
Powell heads for Syria talks
02 May 03  |  Middle East
Country profile: Albania
26 Mar 03  |  Country profiles
Timeline: Albania
26 Mar 03  |  Country profiles


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