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Nato defers on Georgia, Ukraine

Georgian Foreign Minister Eka Tkeshelashvili (left) and Nato Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer
Both Tbilisi and Kiev had pressed hard for MAPs

Nato has reaffirmed that Ukraine and Georgia will eventually join the alliance, without offering them formal roadmaps towards membership.

Instead, Nato foreign ministers meeting in Brussels said the two nations should pursue reforms needed to join the bloc, without giving any timetable for entry.

They also said they expected Albania and Croatia would join Nato next year.

Nato also agreed to resume low-level contacts with Russia, which were frozen over its war with Georgia in August.

Deep splits

In a final communique after the two-day meeting, Nato foreign ministers said: "We reaffirm all elements of the decisions regarding Ukraine and Georgia taken... in Bucharest".

Nato is becoming the battle-ground for competing national positions
Nato diplomat

The document referred to Nato's pledge at its April summit in the Romanian capital that Ukraine and Georgia would eventually join the bloc.

However, the communique added: "Both countries have made progress, yet both have significant work left to do."

It said that annual programmes would now be developed to help the two nations advance their reforms needed to join the alliance.

Georgian soldiers sit atop a tank during the Georgian-Russian war
Georgian troops were ousted from South Ossetia in August

Both Kiev and Tbilisi had pressed for a formal roadmap to Nato membership - the so-called Membership Action Plan (MAP).

Russia strongly opposes their ambitions to join the alliance, and some Nato countries, like Germany, France and Italy, fear offering them MAPs would provoke Russia, correspondents say.

The brief Georgian-Russian war also raised doubts among many members over whether Tbilisi, with its disputed territories, was ready to join the bloc or remained too volatile.

Ukraine, meanwhile, has been beset by political turbulence, with the country split on Nato membership.

The BBC's Caroline Wyatt in Brussels says it is clear that neither country will become a member any time soon, and that assistance is all Nato can offer for now.

However, Nato does not want Moscow to think it has a veto over who joins the alliance, our correspondent says.

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