Albania hopes for an invitation to enter NATO in 2008 at a scheduled summit to set out the alliance`s expansion plans, Defense Minister Fatmir Mediu said Monday.

    During a talk with NATO`s top commander, U.S. Gen. James L. Jones, Mediu expressed concern at NATO`s decision to delay any new members` entry until 2008.

    “This was a real concern,” Mediu told reporters, but adding Albania would use the time to modernize its forces to prepare for membership.

    NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer last week restated the alliance`s position of keeping the door open for new members, but refused to discuss possible entry dates. NATO fixed the 2008 summit to discuss possible expansion.

    Jones rejected the question about whether 2008 was a realistic target for Albania to join the alliance, but he pledged support for the country`s military drive to meet NATO`s entry conditions.

    Albania has been trying to establish closer relations with NATO,and is considering raising its contribution to NATO`s peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan -presently a 22- member contingent.

    TIRANA, Dec. 19, Enditem

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