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Romania Agrees to Establish US Military Bases

Romania says it has agreed with the United States to establish American military bases on the Black Sea. Romanian President Traian Basescu made the announcement Thursday.

In an interview published on his Internet website, Romanian President Traian Basescu says his government has finalized negotiations "regarding US military facilities on the Black Sea coast and maybe in other areas of Romania."

Mr. Basescu says U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice may travel to Romania next month to sign the agreement.

He has not announced exact locations for the bases, but the president said last month that likely sites include Babadag, close to the Danube delta, Constanta on the Black Sea and Fetesti, about 200 kilometers east of the capital Bucharest.

The move is part of U.S. plans to redeploy between 60,000 and 70,000 troops from Germany and South Korea in the next 10 years by shifting its European focus eastwards. Besides Romania, VOA learned earlier this year that negotiations are also ongoing to station thousands of American soldiers in neighboring Bulgaria.

Both countries joined the NATO alliance last year and analysts say stationing US forces in these countries shows Washington's determination to deploy soldiers closer to potential conflicts in the Middle East such as Iraq.

President Basescu praised the U.S. government for taking an interest in security in the Balkans. "It's clear that the United States seems to be more interested by the instability in the Black Sea area than the Europeans are. They have already understood the importance of the Black Sea for the security of Europe," he said.

This is not the first time Romania has cooperated with the US military.

In 2003 American soldiers used an airbase in southeastern Romania as a hub to send equipment and combat troops into Iraq during the early stages of the invasion, and temporarily kept some of them in the area.