| GEO World|
| Bush re-news support for Georgia, Ukraine NATO entry|
| Updated at: 0801 PST, Saturday, October 25, 2008|
WASHINGTON: US President George W. Bush on Friday assured Georgia and Ukraine of US support for both former Soviet states to join the NATO alliance despite Russia's fierce opposition.
"Other nations seek a path to NATO membership, and they have the full support of the United States government," Bush said as he signed NATO accession protocols for Albania and Croatia, bringing them one step closer to membership.
"Today I reiterate America's commitment to the NATO aspirations of Ukraine, Georgia, Bosnia-Hercegovina, and Montenegro," said the US president, who has made the alliance's eastward expansion a foreign policy priority.
Earlier, the White House said Bush still hopes that NATO will launch the process of admitting Georgia and Ukraine as members when the alliance meets in December even though France and Germany oppose the move.
And Moscow has warned it views NATO membership for Georgia, which fought a bitter war with Russia in August, and Ukraine, which is in the grips of political feuding between pro-Western and pro-Russian factions, as a security threat.
The White House ceremony came after Bush held talks with NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer on issues like the alliance's role in Afghanistan as well as the status of Albania and Croatia.
Neither leader explicitly mentioned Russia, but de Hoop Scheffer said "the Europe we are seeking to build should be a continent where nations are free to determine their own future and not have their future decided by others."
Bush said the United States also looked forward to seeing all nations in the Balkans join NATO -- including Macedonia, whose admission into the alliance has stalled because of its name dispute with Greece.
Greece vetoed an invitation for Macedonia to join NATO in August over a 17-year-old dispute about the right to the country's name, which is shared by a northern Greek province.