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NATO commander lauds Montenegro military progress

PODGORICA, Montenegro (AP) – NATO’s top commander said Wednesday that Montenegro will soon fulfill the military requirements to become a member of the Western alliance.

The tiny Balkan state applied to join NATO after it split from Serbia in 2006, and the government has hoped it would be granted membership when alliance leaders meet in Chicago in May. Toward that end, Montenegro’s tiny army has sent 45 soldiers to join U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan.

During a visit to Montenegro, U.S. Navy Adm. James Stavridis praised the country “for the professional military cooperation and excellent support to the NATO peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan.”

“Militarily, they’re ready to go,” Stavridis said, indicating that the decision will not be made by generals but by NATO’s political leadership.

Stavridis also cautioned that the Chicago summit would not make decisions about expanding the military alliance.

“However, I expect discussions about Montenegro’s application and progress being made toward membership,” Stavridis said.

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