November 17, 2005

Deal set for U.S. bases: Romania

BUCHAREST (Reuters) - Romania and the United States have
agreed a deal to establish American military bases on the Black
Sea, Romanian President Traian Basescu said on Thursday.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice may travel to
Romania next month to sign the agreement, Basescu told Euronews
television in an interview posted on the presidency's website.

"We finalized negotiations regarding the U.S. military
facilities on the Black Sea coast and maybe in other areas of
Romania," Basescu said.

"Condoleezza Rice may come and visit Bucharest sometime at
the beginning of December to sign a bilateral treaty regarding
military facilities for the Pentagon in Romania."

He did not give an exact location for the new facilities.

Basescu said last month that possible sites for U.S. bases
included Babadag, close to the Danube delta, Constanta on the
Black Sea, and Fetesti, 125 miles east of Bucharest.

Washington aims to pull about 70,000 troops out of Europe
and Asia in the next decade and is shifting its European focus
eastwards, closing Cold War bases in favor of small, flexible
facilities closer to likely hot spots such as the Middle East.

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 is due to join
as early as 2007. Romania has been a NATO member since 2004.

Neighboring Bulgaria has also been promoting its airfields
and bases as a possible hub for U.S. forces in Europe.

U.S. soldiers used an airbase at Kogalniceanu 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