NATO leaders have devised a plan to bolster alliance forces in parts of Afghanistan where the threat of combat is high. VOA's Paula Wolfson reports it was one of the first signs of consensus to emerge from the NATO summit in Bucharest, Romania.

The plan to send extra troops to Afghanistan focuses on the troubled south of the country.

France says it will send an extra battalion - roughly 700 to 800 troops - to eastern Afghanistan to free American Marines who will be redeployed along with Canadian forces in the south.

NATO Spokesman James Appathurai predicts more NATO members will step up their commitments of troops, military training, and aid during the summit. He says at a working dinner opening the Bucharest summit, leaders of the 26 NATO countries showed they are unified on Afghanistan.

"...a clear unity within the alliance that this is a mission that must succeed, that will succeed," said James Appathurai.

But Appathurai makes clear there is likely to be no meeting of the minds at the summit on Ukraine and Georgia's request for a NATO Membership Action Plan - or MAP. It is a move that is vehemently opposed by Russia, and NATO members France and Germany have expressed reservations.

"I would be happy to be wrong, but I do not expect MAP for Georgia and Ukraine," he said.

Apparthurai indicates, however, there will not be outright rejection and the request will, in essence, be put on hold.

"The general sense was that Membership Action Plan for Georgia and Ukraine is a matter not of whether, but of when," said Appathurai.

The NATO spokesman says at the dinner, leaders expressed general support for all three of the countries that are scheduled to receive an invitation to join the trans-Atlantic alliance. He says Albania, Croatia and Macedonia have all shown they are ready to become full members of NATO. But he predicts action on Macedonia will be delayed because of a long-standing dispute with Greece over its name.

For the Bush administration the early results of the summit are mixed. President Bush has urged the alliance to put Georgia and Ukraine on the path to membership, while calling on NATO members to increase support for Afghanistan.

One other issue of major importance to the White House is the U.S. plan to put a missile defense system in Europe. NATO is likely to issue some sort of statement of support during the summit - a move that is not likely to sit well with Russian President Vladimir Putin who considers the plan a security threat.

Mr. Putin will join the NATO leaders on Friday for a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council. On Sunday, President Bush will meet with the Russian leader at his vacation home in the Russian resort town of Sochi. Russian president-elect Dmitry Medvedev will also attend the talks.