It is too soon for NATO to provide a membership action plan (MAP) to the ex-Soviet republics of Georgia and Ukraine, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday, AFP reported.

A NATO ministerial meeting in December that many predicted would be the occasion for the alliance to extend MAP to Georgia and Ukraine would instead be only "an initial evaluation on the road to MAP," Merkel told journalists.

"The position in favour of membership as soon as possible is not the German position," Merkel said at a news conference after talks with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

The NATO summit in Bucharest last April had agreed that Georgia and Ukraine could in principle be admitted as members of the alliance, she said.l

But she noted that a desire to join the bloc was not the only criterion for membership.

"The German position has not changed since the Bucharest summit," Merkel said.

US President George W. Bush pushed hard at the NATO summit for the bloc to immediately admit Georgia and Ukraine, allies of the United States.

His efforts however hit a roadblock, which at the time officials said was mainly due to French and German reluctance to take the two former Soviet states into the alliance and draw Russia`s wrath.

Some officials and experts HAD predicted after the summit that NATO would extend the MAP to Georgia and Ukraine more quietly at its meeting of foreign ministers scheduled for this December.

Merkel however seemed to pour cold water on that idea, pointedly omitting any reference to a timeframe for when the two countries might join NATO.

The December ministerial meeting would be another occasion for the alliance to assess their membership bids, she said, "no more, no less."

Russian officials have made it clear they would regard NATO membership for Georgia or Ukraine as something close to a hostile action by the trans-Atlantic alliance.

NATO has already expanded to take in a number of eastern European countries that were once part of the Moscow-controlled Warsaw Pact, despite pledges in the early 1990s not to rush any approach toward Russian borders.



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