President George Bush support for NATO membership expansion went unheard on Thursday at the final summit he will attend as a U.S. president. The alliance decided the time wasn't ripe for Georgia and Ukraine to join, while allies agreed to send out more troops to Afghanistan.
France and Germany had openly opposed an invitation to for the former Soviet republics to join on Wednesday. Netherlands joined the opposition side today after claiming the states are not ready and need to still meet a number of key criteria before being given membership.
This relates to matters in the area of democracy, stability in the region, internal relations - these all play a role in MAP status, Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said in reference to the requirements needed to join the Membership Action Plan, that allows them into the alliance within the next five to 10 years.
Membership decisions in this military alliance have to be unanimous, so it only takes one country to block a decision.
But alliance Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said NATO welcomes the countries' aspirations to join. We agree today that these countries will become members of NATO, he said in a transcript.
Meanwhile, Greece opposed membership of Macedonia, as Athens objects the country's name. Greece has a northern province that is also called Macedonia, and believes the former Yugoslav republic's insistence on being known as Macedonia implies a territorial claim on the neighboring Greek Province.
Alliance leaders said Macedonia can join as soon as it resolves the dispute.
This is a huge disappointment, it goes against the values that stand behind NATO, said Macedonian government negotiator Nikola Dimitrov.
In other affairs, France offered to send more troops to Afghanistan, which will free up U.S. troops to move south to Kandahar province. Britain also agreed to send 18 additional helicopters to help in the fight against the Taliban.
NATO also announced its 60th anniversary summit next year, will be held in the French border city of Strasbourg and its German neighbor, Kehl.