Nato foreign ministers will attempt to avoid a diplomatic row with Moscow tomorrow when they deny Georgia and Ukraine the opportunity to take the first step towards guaranteed membership of the alliance.

The two former Russian satellite countries have been waiting for eight months to see whether their friends in the West would let them participate in Nato's membership action plan (MAP) - the formal programme of training and assistance that leads to joining the club.

Now, at British government bidding, foreign ministers have come up with a new formula of words and action that will keep the two countries linked to Nato but without putting them on the normal pathway to membership. The move is being seen as part snub to Georgia and Ukraine and part concession to Moscow.

Under the formula that will be laid before foreign ministers meeting in Brussels tomorrow, the MAP programme will be bypassed and in its place Georgia and Ukraine will be offered their own special tailor-made arrangements but without any sense of a timetable or deadline for eventual membership.


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