August 25, 2005

Romania says drafting U.S. Black Sea base deal

BUCHAREST (Reuters) - Romania is drafting a deal with
Washington to set up U.S. military bases on the Black Sea,
Romanian Defense Minister Teodor Atanasiu said on Thursday.

The United States wants to shift its European strategic
focus eastwards, and new NATO members Romania and Bulgaria have
been promoting airfields and bases as potential new hubs for
U.S. forces as Washington pulls 70,000 troops out of central
Europe and Asia in the next decade.

State news agency Rompres quoted Atanasiu as saying a
memorandum, now being discussed by diplomats, would lay down
the terms for American deployment in the Balkan country's

"The talks are underway ... The commitment for setting up
these bases somewhere in the Black Sea area will be achieved
through a political memorandum," Atanasiu told Rompres.

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.

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.

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

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 Iraq War, and
temporarily kept up to 3,500 American troops there.

The U.S. embassy was not immediately available for comment.