October 23, 2005

US and Romania close to deal on Black Sea bases

By Radu Marinas

BUCHAREST (Reuters) - The United States and new NATO member
Romania are very close to reaching an agreement to establish
American military bases on the Black Sea, U.S. National
Security Adviser Stephen Hadley said on Sunday.

Romania has been promoting its airfields and bases as a
possible hub for U.S. forces as Washington pulls 70,000 troops
out of central Europe and Asia in the next decade to smaller
bases closer to potential hot spots such as the Middle East.

"There's an issue of finalizing the relevant agreement and
then signing it. The framework basically allows access to
facilities so as to facilitate cooperation between the forces
of the United States and Romania," Hadley told reporters after
meeting President Traian Basescu to discuss regional issues.

"We look forward to the conclusion of that agreement very
soon," said the White House official, who also praised
Romania's contribution to U.S.-led wars in Afghanistan and

Washington's realignment plans are expected to involve a
shift to small, flexible military bases in the former eastern
bloc as it reduces its presence in Germany, a Cold War legacy.

"Negotiations (on bases) are practically over," Basescu

The bases are seen as important in Romania's drive to
secure more foreign investment to close the enormous wealth gap
separating it from the European Union, which it hopes to join
as early as 2007.

Romania's southern neighbor Bulgaria has also said it is
drafting a deal to set up U.S. bases on the Black Sea.

Basescu said possible locations for the bases could be
Babadag close to the Danube delta, facilities in Constanta on
the Black sea and in Fetesti, some 200 km (125 miles) east of

"You can imagine the area of Babadag, Constanta and maybe
Fetesti," Basescu said without elaborating.

Romanian military officials had said Bucharest had offered
a location at Kogalniceanu near the Black Sea and also a
shooting range at Babadag, 30 km (18 miles) south of

U.S. soldiers used the Kogalniceanu airbase in southeastern
Romania as a hub to send equipment and 7,000 combat troops into
Iraq during the early stages of the 2003 invasion, and
temporarily kept up to 3,500 American troops there.

Basescu said he had also assured Washington that his
country remains committed to support U.S-led military
campaigns: "Romania will continue to fulfil its obligations in
Afghanistan and Iraq."