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Senate Ratifies Adding 7 Nations to NATO

May 8, 2003

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Senate voted unanimously to support adding seven eastern European nations to NATO, hailing the shift of former communist states into free-market democracies allied with the United States and Western Europe.

``This is historic for these seven countries, vital in continuing to strengthen the North Atlantic alliance and central to U.S. security and relationships in the world,″ said Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar, R-Ind.

If approved by all 19 NATO member states, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia would be added to the alliance. Sixteen of the current members have not yet ratified the expansion.

Foreign ministers of the seven nations were in the Senate Gallery to witness the 96-0 vote, well over the two-thirds vote needed for ratification. They were to meet later with President Bush.

No House vote is needed on the expansion.

Noting that the vote was taking place on the 58th anniversary of the allied victory in Europe in World War II, Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota described the expansion as another step toward ``the creation of a Europe that is whole, that is free.″

``This is the beginning of a partnership that will produce greater world stability, greater international involvement in world affairs and a partnership with countries that will increasingly become valuable partners and allies of the United States,″ he said.

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