A top NATO official said Monday that Macedonia was heading in the right direction in its bid to gain full membership of the military alliance.
NATO's Deputy Secretary General Alessandro Minuto Rizzo praised military reforms carried out by this small Balkan country - including weaponry modernization - and singled out Macedonia's participation in missions in Afghanistan and Iraq. Macedonia has 10 soldiers in Afghanistan and 32 in Iraq.
"You are (going) the right way, you have done a lot. Go on like this," Minuto Rizzo was quoted as saying in a statement released by Macedonian President Branko Crvenkovski's office, after talks between the two men.
Macedonia, Albania and Croatia had hoped to be invited to become full members at the military alliance's next summit, expected in 2006. But NATO recently signaled that any further expansion should wait until at least 2008.
"We need the reforms not only for (membership of) the European Union and NATO, but also for ourselves, to improve our way of living," Crvenkovski said.
Minuto Rizzo also met Macedonian Prime Minister Vlado Buckovski, the AP reports.