NATO invites Croatia and Albania to join alliance

BUCHAREST Thu Apr 3, 2008 6:40am EDT

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BUCHAREST (Reuters) - NATO confirmed it would on Thursday issue formal invitations to Balkan neighbors Croatia and Albania to join the alliance after postponing an invitation to Macedonia because of Greek opposition.

A NATO official said the invitations had been confirmed and that the step would be formalized later on Thursday when Croatian and Albanian leaders attended a special session with their NATO counterparts.

Albania's prime minister told Reuters on Wednesday NATO would guarantee freedoms for Albania but said a delay in inviting Macedonia could encourage radicals and fuel instability in the Balkans.

Greece has vetoed Macedonia's entry until the former Yugoslav republic resolves a row over the use of the name Macedonia, shared with the most northerly Greek province.

(Reporting by Mark John and David Brunnstrom; Editing by Timothy Heritage)

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