Prospect of Finland, Sweden joining NATO discussed at NATO meeting -U.S. official

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U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken thanks police officers as he departs the Brussels Airport in Zaventem for Washington, Belgium April 5, 2022. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein/Pool

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BRUSSELS, April 7 (Reuters) - The prospect of Finland and Sweden joining NATO was part of the discussion between foreign ministers from the military alliance in Brussels this week, a senior U.S. State Department official said on Thursday.

"Obviously this is going to be those countries' choices to make," said the official, briefing reporters on the condition of anonymity.

"The alliance's open door remains open and there was discussion about that potential candidacy," the official said.

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Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which it says aims among other things to degrade Ukraine's military potential and prevent it becoming a bridgehead for a NATO attack, has prompted the two Nordic countries to consider joining the U.S.-led alliance.

Since the invasion began on Feb. 24 public opinion polls commissioned by Finnish media outlets have shown a swift U-turn with the majority of Finns now favoring joining NATO.

Finnish foreign minister Pekka Haavisto told reporters earlier that Finland will clarify next steps in the coming weeks regarding a possible decision to seek NATO membership.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov has said that if Finland and Sweden joined NATO then Russia would have to "rebalance the situation" with its own measures. read more

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Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis; Writing by Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Franklin Paul and Grant McCool

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