Croatia's foreign minister says she expects her country, Albania, and Macedonia to be invited to join the NATO military alliance next April.

Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic said Saturday that the three countries expect to receive a formal invitation for membership at the next NATO summit in Romania's capital, Bucharest.

Grabar-Kitarovic made the statement after a meeting with U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Rosemary DiCarlo in the Croatian port city of Split.

DiCarlo said the United States will make every effort to help the three eastern European nations become the best possible candidates by April 2008. She said joining NATO and the European Union is important for the region's long-term stability.

DiCarlo attended a meeting in Croatia of foreign and defense ministers from the three countries with their counterparts from the Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.

In May 2003, Albania, Croatia and Macedonia signed the so-called Adriatic Charter with the United States, aimed at facilitating their inauguration into NATO.