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Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski (C) speaks to NATO Secretary General George Robertson (L) and Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov (R) prior to the open-air press conference in Sofia, October 5, 2001. Robertson described Afghanistan as "a black hole" on Friday and stressed that last month's attacks on the United States had not derailed plans to expand NATO beyond the old Iron Curtain. REUTERS/Oleg Popov
NATO Secretary General George Robertson (C) gestures towards Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov (R) as Estonian President Lennart Meri (L) looks on during the "Sofia Summit 2001" on October 5, 2001. Presidents of 10 former communist countries seeking NATO membership meet in Bulgarian capital for a one-day summit which is expected to back an international coalition against terrorism. REUTERS/Oleg Popov
Bulgaria's President Petar Stoyanov, right, talks to NATO Secretary General Lord George Robertson during the opening session of the Sofia Summit, Friday, Oct. 5, 2001. Expanding NATO to take in Eastern Europe and the Baltics will help secure the world against the threat of global terrorism, the leaders of 10 nations pressing to join the alliance said Friday. (AP Photo/Dimitar Deinov)
Downtown Sofia Blocked before NATO Summit. The downtown Sofia is cordoned off from yesterday. At every 20 m there is a police post to guarantee the security of the participants in NATO-candidates summit. On the photo: Uniformed policemen explain to citizens why the passage in front of the Sheraton Hotel, that will lodge the guests of the summit, is cordoned. Photo by Nikolay Dontchev
Presidential Summit In Bulgaria. Croatian President Stipe Mesic (L) passes Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov (R) in Sofia to take part in the presidential summit of ten post communist countries' leaders, October 5. EPA
ADDRESS OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA.
Sophia, October 5 (MIA) - Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski delivered a speech Friday at the Summit in Sophia, titled "The Contribution of New Democracies to the Euro-Atlantic Security."
In his address President Trajkovski extended his gratitude to the host of the Summit, the President of the Republic of Bulgaria, Petar Stoyanov, for his hospitality and excellent organization of this Summit.
In this occasion he conveyed again his deepest sympathies to the people of the United States and to the families of the victims, which included citizens of other countries as well. "Even while our thoughts and prayers remain with the families and friends whose lives were devastated on September 11th, our attention turns to the course of action we must take. And that action is something that requires the involvement of all people and countries who love and cherish freedom," said Trajkovski.
This is a time, according to him, when each human being, each country must firmly decide, without false prejudices, petty interests and doubts, whether to take the side of good and freedom or the side of evil. This summit was considered to be a good opportunity for all participants to express their commitment and their countries' determination to deal with terrorism, which is the main threat to the peace and stability, democracy and free market economy. Any kind of terrorism wherever and whenever it may be, and whatever motives and origins it may have was condemned in the most unreserved manner in President Trajkovski's address.
"Shortly after the attacks on September 11, President George Bush said that we must target 'terrorists with a global reach.' I would add that we must not only target terrorists with a global reach, but we must target terrorists wherever they are and whatever their reach. Because even if 'local' terrorists dont expand their reach to a global level, they must be stopped by the collective actions of the international community as their tactics and methods will be used by others. And even if 'local' terrorists dont expand their reach to a global level, they must be stopped in order to send a signal to all terrorists wherever they are," said Trajkovski.
Furthermore, according to him, "the terrorist attacks of September 11 have shown how much the contemporary world is threatened by terrorism. As we proceed to fight this scourge, we must also engage ourselves in trying to understand the security background of the escalation of the terrorist activities. We have to reshape our security community and cooperative security structures that will address the sources of terrorism and prevent eventual political support to those terrorist networks. On the verge of the third millennium we are facing a qualitative change in the assessments of security threats. Wars among states more and more become an historic category. International terrorism and internal conflicts are the major threat to stability. The globalization process makes the countries more and more interdependent. Therefore the war against modern threats on security can be successful only if it has a cross border character."
Macedonia dedicates great importance to the strengthening of cooperative security structures between NATO and Vilnius countries aiming to promote peace and stability in the Euro-Atlantic region, according to Trajkovski. Euro-Atlantic security architecture is the essence of the cooperation and determination to combat terrorism in accordance to the commitments among each other and in accordance with the national priorities. In this context, considering that the Prague Summit 2002 is one year ahead, President Trajkovski expressed Macedonia's strong resolve for integration in the Euro-Atlantic security structures.
"I believe that it is in the interest of the cooperative security of the Euro-Atlantic region, the comprehensive enlargement of the NATO to be pursued to the countries of the Central and Eastern Europe. Despite the significant regional and international efforts to protect security and stability in the South East European region, there are still strong destabilizing tendencies. Due to the conflicts as well as difficulties in the transition period, the region becomes a source and a transit corridor for illicit trade in arms, drugs and human beings. These phenomena have negative implications over the security and stability in South East Europe and thus over Euro-Atlantic security. They undermine the sovereignty of the governments and create a convenient structure of organized violent activities," said Trajkovski.
"In this context," continued President Trajkovski, "I would like to add that it is necessary for the EU to strengthen its policy towards the SEE and give priority to it. This European region needs help in its rapprochement to the European achievements, as well as economic assistance. If the assistance were delayed destabilization of wider scale would be imminent. The integration of these countries in the new ESPD should be taken into account."
Macedonia has been facing the most serious challenge since its independence for the last eight months. The anti-civilizing forces attacked one of the key strongholds to the Macedonian stability - the century-long interethnic tolerance - trying to convert the conflict into a confrontation between Macedonians and ethnic Albanians. In their fight for criminal interests and ethnically clean territories, they skillfully covered under the mask of human rights fighters, by taking advantage of some internal weaknesses of the Macedonian society and by abusing certain previous activities and efforts of the international community in the Balkans. In this way, as Trajkovski said, they partially achieved their goal - they destabilized our country by shattering the century-long cohabitation between the Macedonians and ethnic Albanians.
Being aware of the essence and the complexity of the danger that Macedonia and all its citizens were facing, the Macedonian state leadership opted for a solution based on three crucial objectives: to preserve the unitary character, territorial integrity and sovereignty of Macedonia; to avoid a bloody interethnic war; to involve and provide help from the international community. Based on these premises, for the welfare of Macedonia, "we fought when necessary, we signed the Framework Agreement in order to restore and strengthen the trust between the Macedonians and ethnic Albanians and we prepared the disarmament plan, all in the interest of peace and stability," said Trajkovski.
President Trajkovski welcomed the strength of the International community to appreciate the brave and reasonable position of Macedonia in dealing with the crisis and has been truly contributing to its stability. In that regard, as he said, Macedonia and NATO have worked together as partners to promote strengthening security and stability in my country and in the region preparing us for full membership in the Alliance. After the successful ending of the operation Essential harvest and upon the assessment of the need for additional security for the international monitors in the most delicate phase of the peace process the return of the Macedonian Security Forces in the crises regions - we supported further involvement of NATO in the three months to come. The operation 'Amber Fox' is based on three principles: solidarity, partnership and cooperation between Macedonia and NATO.
"I am convinced that this NATO operation will follow the success of the operation 'Essential Harvest' and that the NATO commitment to the security, stability and territorial integrity of my country will continue," added President Trajkovski.
Welcoming this joint commitment, President Trajkovski stressed however that the cooperation with the international community will continue, by passing the Ohrid Agreement and taking care of the domestic problems so that NATO soldiers can go home and fight the war against terrorism from their own homes.
"We will do all of this because we are committed to peace, stability, prosperity and freedom for all citizens who share our values and goals," Trajkovski said.
The current crisis in Macedonia points out the dilemma in the region of the SEE. The countries from the region will either accept the European achievements and will join the Euro-Atlantic family or the region will turn into a ground where a union of criminal and terrorists will rule. The experience in the SEE shows that the international community must center on the prevention, more than on reconstruction. In other words, as said by Lord Robertson on one occasion, "we are more secure, if our neighbors are more secure as well."
"We have to put an end to all forms of terrorism. It threatens our peace, stability, security and democratic reforms. It can destroy all we have achieved so far. We have to find ways to defeat terrorism, to stop it, eliminate it, and destroy it where it grows if we want to have democracy, rule of law, and respect and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms. We have to continue with the unity that we showed in the aftermath of September 11 attacks. The Prague Summit 2002 will give us the opportunity to formalize and strengthen this unity," said President Trajkovski at the end of his address before the attendants at the Summit 2001 in Sophia.
Macedonia cease-fire crisis averted.
MSNBC NEWS SERVICES
International pressure key to halting retaking of rebel zones.
SKOPJE, Macedonia, Oct. 5 Macedonian police suspended an effort to retake control of ethnic Albanian areas after Western officials pressured authorities to respect a peace accord signed last month.
TOP EUROPEAN UNION officials Javier Solana and Chris Patten met with rival sides in the capital of the troubled Balkan country and demanded that majority Macedonians honor the accord, aimed at ending an ethnic Albanian insurgency.
As an apparent result, the police said in a statement that they would stop entering ethnic Albanian-populated villages and any future restoration of government authority in the contested areas would be carried out in cooperation with NATO, the European Union and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
Earlier Thursday, Macedonian security forces took control of three ethnic Albanian villages but backed off several others after meeting with resistance, a police officer said.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the United States and European institutions had urged the Macedonian government against redeployment now.
OSCE head Mircea Geoana said he was surprised security forces had been deployed without the international communitys consultation.
We consider deployment as premature and counterproductive, Geoana said. He added that, although the return remains part of the deal, it should not happen until conditions are fully respected, including an amnesty for the rebels.
Under the Aug. 13 peace deal, Macedonians agreed to give ethnic Albanians broader rights in exchange for an end to their insurgency. The rebels have handed over nearly 4,000 weapons to a NATO mission and formally disbanded, but the Macedonian-dominated parliament has yet to enact the provisions.
After meeting with Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski and Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski, Patten said provisions of the peace accord must be implemented as rapidly as promised. The late September deadline stipulated in the agreement has already passed.
HARD-LINERS PUSH FORWARD
Macedonian Interior Minister Ljube Boskoski and others have insisted on restoring government authority in the former war zones in order to enable thousands of displaced persons to return home.
Macedonia cannot wait for some missionaries to say whether this condition or that condition is fulfilled. Macedonia is a sovereign country and we have our red line, Boskoski declared this week.
Ethnic Albanians account for nearly a third of Macedonias 2 million people. Dozens have died and tens of thousands were forced to flee their homes during this years armed clashes between ethnic Albanian militants and government forces.
Patten said it was important that Macedonia proceed as planned in the peace accord, or foreign donors could become reluctant to help the country.
On Thursday, the European Union postponed an international donors conference over the governments unwillingness to enact reforms.
Its absolutely inconceivable the donors conference can take place on the 15th of October, Patten told reporters.
I could not possibly get donors to the table in these circumstances and prepared to write large checks in order to support a political agreement that still hasnt been endorsed and implemented. So I think well have to regroup and look at the situation later in the year or next year.
Resistance to the reforms needed to implement the accord has stiffened in recent weeks, particularly since the Sept. 11 terror attacks on the United States.
A Macedonian media campaign orchestrated by nationalist hawks has associated the ethnic Albanian insurgency with Albanian terrorist aggression.
Most Albanians are nominally Muslim but lead secular lives.
Patten said the Macedonian leadership was deluded if it thought the current international preoccupation with wiping out terror networks would relieve it of responsibility for honoring its settlement with the countrys ethnic Albanian population.
Anybody here who thinks they can get away with dishonoring the agreement because our attention is focused on Afghanistan is in for a rude shock, he said.
Solana Target Of Insults And Stones in Macedonia.
posted on TOL Wire on 5 October 2001
SKOPJE, 5 October (KosovaLive)--The European Union (EU) High Representative for Foreign Policy and Security Javier Solana, who came to Skopje on a new initiative to unblock the political process, was the target of an attack on 4 October by a group of ethnic Macedonian protestors.
The incident occurred when Solana returned to speak with Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski after talks with Albanian leaders. The crowd of ethnic Macedonians, unobstructed by the police, rushed toward him, stoning and insulting him as he stepped from his car surrounded by escorts at the president's residency. Solana was immediately removed from the scene by vehicle.
There has not yet been any official information from the Macedonian Interior Ministry regarding this incident. It is unknown whether EU commissioner Chris Patten was also in Solana's vehicle.
The EU high officials' visit to Macedonia was scheduled in response to the refusal of some senior Macedonian officials and many parliamentary deputies to vote for constitutional changes.
It not known whether Solana has left Macedonia since the incident, despite earlier indications made that he would brief the media.
A plenary session was to be held today to examine the last phase of constitutional changes. Parliament cabinet officials announced, however, that the Macedonian parliamentary chairman would make an official visit to Bulgaria instead of convoking the session.
ANDOV: DEBATE ON THE AMENDMENTS WILL START ON TUESDAY, BUT NOT THE VOTING.
Macedonian Parliament Chairman Stojan Andov said at the press conference held on Friday that so far President Boris Trajkovski sent him six draft-amendments that refer to the fifth, sixth, ninth, sixteenth and seventeenth amendment.
Based on this, Andov said that he would schedule a session of the Constitutional Commission for Monday, and the 86th session of the Parliament would take place on Tuesday, where debate on the draft-amendments would start.
"Not one amendment will be adopted until all kidnapped persons are not released. If any of the kidnapped persons was killed, it must be determined how that happened," Andov said, adding that he would not step back from this demand.
He explained that the debate on the amendments would start, but there will be no voting until this matter is resolved.
"The entire procedure for determining the text of the amendments will be completed, only the voting will be postponed until this conditions is fulfilled," he said.
THREE AGREEMENTS ON INTENSIFYING MACEDONIAN-RUSSIAN ECONOMIC COOPERATION SIGNED.
The trade exchange between Macedonia and Russia will increase to $ 500 million, with positive effect for both parties.
This was included in the documents on increasing the economic cooperation between the both countries after the two-day work of the mixed Macedonian - Russian Commission on trade, economic and scientific - technological cooperation.
Memorandum between the Macedonian and Russian governments for liberalization of the trade exchange, Agreement on cooperation in the field of tourism as well as the Agreement on cooperation between the economy ministries of the both countries were signed on Friday.
Russian Minister of Industry, Science and Technology Alexander Dondukov assessed that all activities for improving the cooperation between the two countries were undertaken.
He thanked to the ministers of transport and communications and economy, Ljupco Balkoski and Besnik Fetai as their participation enriched the work of the Commission.
Vice President of the Macedonian Government Zoran Krsteski thanked to the Russian Federation for supporting Macedonia in any respect, saying that the conditions for better economic cooperation were met.
The Macedonian construction companies will return on the Russian market, the cooperation in the field of science and technology will be stimulated, conditions for cooperation in the air traffic are being established and the agricultural products could be exported on the Russian market.
Krstevski stressed that the aim of the signed agreements is to develop the overall economic relations. Regarding the current situation in the country, Macedonia requested from Russia reducing the taxes on the Macedonian agricultural products and food as well as the products from the chemical industry, which should be approved by the Russian Parliament. It was agreed the import of crops and fodder from Russia to be compensated with the building services. The cooperation in the field of energy was also agreed as well as the continuing of the gasification process in Macedonia.
There are options and interest for Russia to invest in the oil business such as completing the privatization process of OKTA refinery or activating the power plant "Negotino." Macedonia also made important offer to Russia in the field of tourism.
Fair of Macedonian products will be held in Russia at the beginning of next year. The Macedonian government has already approved $ 100,000, and Russia will cover the expenditures for holding the fair manifestation.
Police Cordoned Downtown Sofia.
Police patrols put under control all central streets in Sofia. Each policemen guards 20-meter distance. Hilton hotel, where the top guests in the NATO forum are to be accommodated, is cordoned by 20 policemen and 3 patrol posts. One ambulance even stands in front of the hotel. The parking place of Sheraton hotel is deserted. The whole region round the hotel is cordoned. Guests to the summit are lodged there as well. Meanwhile the police and the customs in the Pirin area strengthened the security measures along the entire border of Southwestern Bulgaria, thus anti-globalists non-admission to our state to be provided. As early as on Wednesday specific instructions were sent to all checkpoints. The features of the anti-globalists were specified in more than 10 items. Yet, customs officers are looking for petards, fireworks and slogans in the luggages of those tourists, who are looking like anti-globalists. Over 300 VIP guests are arriving from 3 days to our state for the NATO summit today. The time of landing of more than 20 official aircrafts was not voiced for security reasons. The Sofia Airport is strictly guarded. Kristoff Zoepel, state minister of the Federal Foreign Affairs Ministry of Germany, was within the first to come. Croatia's President Stipe Mesic was here from yesterday. NATO General Secretary George Robertson and the former national security advisor to the U.S. president - Zbignev Brzezinski have had to come lately in the afternoon. The president of Slovenia, Estonia, Albania, Lithuania, Slovakia, Latvia, Macedonia, Romania, the defence ministers of Luxembourg and the Czech Republic, the chief commander of the Pact Forces in Europe - Gen Joseph Ralston, foreign minister of Turkey and Greece.
Participants in the Sofia summit appealed for a global struggle against terrorism.
The main accents in the speeches given by the participants in the Sofia summit were changed aspects of world order and security after September 11 and the global struggle against terrorism. The Presidents of the Vilnius Group countries that took part in the first two parts of the forum expressed their explicit denouncement of any kind of terrorist actions and confirmed the readiness of their countries to take part in the struggle of the pact against terrorism. Croatian President Stjepan Mesic called terrorism "a strike against the civilization itself", and proposed the idea of a global action against terrorism. The Presidents of Slovakia, Latvia, Macedonia and Romania also spoke on the forum and discussed the theme of the second part Europe 2002: Sharing Responsibilities. The host of the forum President Petar Stoyanov generalized the opinions expressed on the forum. Secretary-General of NATO Robertson said that the pact could demand from its members to participate with troops. Robertson, Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi and Minister of Transport and Communications Plamen Petrov validated stamps devoted to the summit. The forum would continue its work this afternoon with a free discussion/talk between the participants.
Gen Atanassov: The Secret Service Tapped.
That's a nice plot on collecting economic information, Gen Atanassov said.
The tapping in Sofia was organized by group of former officers in the State Secret Service who had left the service before 1989, Gen Atanas Atanassov, head of the National Security Service, said yesterday. The service discovered a tapping system in all the ATZ (Automatic Telephone Exchange Stations) throughout Sofia. The plot lasted for 7 years. 'Participation of current security services' officers is not found,' Gen Atanassov said. He denied to elaborate the number of the companies involved. 'It's all about economic information provided to the competitors', NSS chief said. The contractors needed it, he added. The General declined to specify the names of persons and companies, involved in the affair. It was a perfect organization. Atanassov defined the conspiracy as 'well constructed plot, where everybody knows only the person ahead of him, thus to avoid the breakthrough.'
Bin Laden's Codes Are Hard to Catch Because They Are Elementary.
However, the intelligence services can't accept similar primitivism and waste their time on super technologies.
Today 'Standart' goes ahead with the story of the Bulgarian who met Osama bin Laden and who knows a lot about his business, contacts and dugouts. Perhaps the efforts of the security services should be focused, particularly now, on the high speed possibilities for the analysis of facts, events and related persons.
The information I released as a start in 'Standart', was received with justified mistrust, it was even ridiculed. However, later on, not only did other media but the FBI, the CIA and even ISI (Islamic Service Intelligence) confirm the data on the firms of SBG, on their involvement in the 'Iridium' project and on the simultaneous interest in the waste nuclear fuel and in nuclear power plants in Germany. For fear of making anyone angry and giving the services a lot of trouble, I'd like to attach significance to several facts which would be better to clarify only by means of the analysis and a more detailed investigation. After the attacks of the terrorists and before the counter-attack of the USA and its allies, the question of the ways of delivering information and the means of communication between the direct perpetrators of the terrorist acts and their leaders has been very often in the focus of attention. The topic, most frequently referred to is about the delivery of top classified computer files and announcements. The international press repeatedly carried announcements to the effect that a revolutionary technology had even been developed for data coding and delivery, that the terrorists' secrets had been hidden in pornosites, files MP3, etc. However, the cruel truth of the ways of information exchange between the kamikazes, as already reported by all media, is that they used the ordinary E-mail of the well-known names in this branch: Hotmail, Yahoo, AOL USA.NET. The people who are at least a little aware of this way of communication, know that the contents of all the mail, the links with the correspondents, the text and graphic information can be controlled by the owners of those companies and that the information is saved in the servers, even when the system signals the subscriber that he has deleted everything. Regrettably, the FBI and the other services came upon the tracks of the terrorists and their correspondence too late. Only to find that everything had taken place in front of their nose. The attention of the intelligence services and research units focused on the new possibilities of communication, connected with the Internet and the other multimedia means. However, the more the scientific methods of coding and the efforts to decoding have advanced in terms of scientific technology and practical implementation, the more the examples of the biggest conspiracies and terrorist acts have shown a surprising persistence in primitivism and oversight. Here are some examples: * On March 20 1993, using ordinary passenger bags the sect 'Supreme Truth of Aum' led by blind religious leader Shoko Asahara, dispersed neuro-paralytic gas in Tokio Underground. 12 were killed and 600 - injured. The information saved in one of the portable computers however, was deciphered for minutes. * Ames Aldridge, the 'mole' detected in the CIA two years ago, who for many years had been delivering classified information to the 'Russians' from the 'source', coded his notes in his personal computer by the standard means of his software product, developed by Access Data Corporation. * The Tamil tigers, the 'Kali' cartel, the 'Christine' wing of the Italian mafia and the Bolivian drug dealers have been widely using only the MS Office means of coding. The decoding of similar crypted announcements is naturally a matter of some technological time. However, the services could not accept similar primitivism and kept on looking for 'the key from the cottage'.
Gold Rush Drove Kroumovgrad Crazy.
Some 100 tons of the precious metal lay beneath Ada hillock, local people dream of a new Klondike.
The Eastern Rhodopes recently were considered the most godforsaken land in Bulgaria. Until the news came about tons of gold beneath the rocks in the Kroumovgrad vicinities. 'We are to leave tobacco under the bridge and take the pickaxes to dig for the reef of gold,' plans even a 85-year-old Ahmed Sabri, while rolling a cigarette at the town's market. Sons and grandsons didn't show up for decades in their home town, but now they're coming back to ask where and what they had found. 'It's true there's gold, but it's far less than the reported 350 tons of deposits. And it has nothing to do with the gold-diggers of Jack London,' elaborate geologists from the English 'Balkan Mineral and Mining' PLC. So far the data shows that beneath Ada hillock 22.7 million tons of ore lay. The average amount of gold in the rocks accounts for 4.25 grams per ton. This is to say that close to Kroumovgrad are lying some 100 tons of the precious metal,' David Thomas, manager of the 'Balkan Mineral' Kroumovgrad deposit project, said.
Venelina Yanakieva (SH)
Russian Tourists Under Restriction.
The groups must number 10 persons at least, the Foreign Ministry required. Tour-operators insist on abolition of the limit.
The tourist field and the ministries charged with the branch are in a state of war about the visas implemented upon the Russian nationals. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has drawn and voiced the visa requirements for the organized Russian tourists. To them, the Russian companies are not entitled to ask tourist visa for the holiday of their customers in Bulgaria if the group numbers less than 10 persons. This is close to discrimination, maintain branch experts. The contract with the Bulgarian tour-operator is also required, which is unnecessary impediment in the procedure, commented representatives of the branch in Bulgaria. Moreover, all holiday-makers should be accommodated in one hotel, stipulate the new requirements. 'We will fight back,' warned Donka Sokolova, president of the Bulgarian Associations of the Tourist Agencies. Representatives of the branch and the Economy and Foreign Affairs Ministries shaped a working group to consider the options on evasion of visa payment, Sokolova added.
Nations Press For NATO Expansion.
By WILLIAM J. KOLE, Associated Press Writer
SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) - Expanding NATO to take in Eastern Europe and the Baltics will help secure the world against the threat of global terrorism, the leaders of 10 nations pressing to join the alliance said Friday.
Meeting under heavy security at Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov's residence, the leaders of 10 East European and Baltic countries said the Sept. 11 attacks added urgency to their case for joining the 19-member alliance.
``The blows at the heart of the United States have shed new light on the need to consolidate strength against the new evil,'' Stoyanov said.
``Even if a global anti-terrorist alliance is created, it can't be successful without a strong NATO,'' he said. ``No nation is able to cope with the new threats single-handed.''
Russia has vehemently opposed the eastward expansion of NATO, which would bring the alliance to its doorstep. But this week, Russian President Vladimir Putin softened his opposition, suggesting that Russia and NATO could find common ground in the global fight against terrorism.
Stronger relations with emerging democracies are essential to counter the terrorist threat in Afghanistan, NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson said.
``Afghanistan is a safe haven for terrorists precisely because it does not have a viable state structure. It is a black hole,'' Robertson said. ``That is why NATO is engaged in southeast Europe - to prevent such black holes from emerging on our doorstep. ... The new democracies have demonstrated once again that they are not just fair-weather friends.''
Friday's meeting brought together the heads of state of potential newcomers Bulgaria, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Croatia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Romania, Macedonia and Albania. They issued a ``declaration of solidarity'' that ``our governments will fully support the war against terrorism.''
``The lesson we draw from the terrorist attacks in the United States is that the security of America and Europe is more intertwined than ever before,'' it said. ``The new democracies of Europe can help counter terrorist and criminal threats to the community of the West.''
It was their last gathering before a November 2002 summit in Prague, where NATO members are expected to clear the way for several new nations to join. Former Warsaw Pact members Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary joined in 1999.
``Your determination to stand side by side with the United States and the NATO alliance during this hour of trial sends a powerful message against the tyranny of terror,'' President Bush said in a message to the gathering. ``The United States supports NATO membership for all of Europe's new democracies - from the Baltics to the Black Sea - who share our values.''
On Thursday, the NATO allies granted the United States automatic and unlimited access to their airfields and ports and agreed to deploy ships and early-warning radar planes in Washington's campaign against terrorism.
Robertson said the process of enlarging NATO would continue and ``will not be held hostage to any terrorist campaign.''
But he cautioned the candidate countries: ``The strong logic of enlargement must be matched by the effort needed to make it happen. Aspirant countries must meet NATO's political and military standards before they can be admitted.''
Nato hopefuls meet in Bulgaria.
Heads of state from 10 central and eastern European countries hoping to join Nato are meeting in the Bulgarian capital, Sofia.
The top civilian and military leaders of the alliance are also taking part in the discussions.
In a message to the summit, President Bush said the United States supported the membership of all the new democracies in the region and was ready for what he called historic decisions at next year's Nato summit in Prague.
But the alliance Secretary-General George Robertson said new members also had to be ready to meet Nato's military requirements.
Earlier this week Russia said it might reconsider its opposition to the eastward expansion of the alliance. The Sofia summit is also expected to give its support to the United States in the fight against terrorism.
The 10 countries taking part are Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia, Romania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, and Albania.