When seven former communist countries became members of NATO in 2004, Albania,Croatia and FYROM failed to join the organization.
Since then, they have intensified their efforts to obtain invitations which they expect by the end of 2006.
However, the fact that some NATO members such as the United States have given priority to other issues as well as doubts over their fitness to join, appear to have pushed enlargement onto the backburner.
According to one NATO source, the US proposed at a meeting in Brussels that NATO study membership requests at a summit in 2008 and suggested that an earlier summit in 2006 focus on efforts to give new impetus to the 56-year-old alliance.
However, the U.S. proposal still has to obtain consensus among other NATO countries.
One diplomat claimed that there was little appetite in the alliance for a new round of enlargement in the near future.
The U.S. NATO mission confirmed it had made proposals about possible summits which were being discussed in the alliance.
The move comes after the European Union toughened its stance on countries hoping to join the bloc soon such as Croatia.
The French and the Dutch “no” to the referendum on the EU Constitution have been taken as a sign of growing “enlargement fatigue” among many Europeans.
Albania, Croatia and FYROM have each entered into so-called “membership action plans” with NATO, which stresses that their entry aspirations will be judged solely on their ability to fulfil conditions on democracy and defence reform.
10:45 – 08 September 2005