U.S. President George W. Bush delivers a speech Saturday in the Croatian capital, Zagreb, where he is expected to praise Croatia for being invited to join NATO.

Mr. Bush arrived in Croatia Friday after leaving the NATO summit in Bucharest, where the alliance invited Croatia and Albania to begin membership talks.

The president is expected to describe membership in the alliance as a "vote of confidence" that will lead to security and stability for both nations.

Mr. Bush will also praise the new nations, as well as Macedonia, for deploying troops in Afghanistan. NATO postponed action on Macedonia's membership in the alliance until it resolves a dispute with Greece over the country's name.

After talks with Croatian officials, the American president will head to Russia for a final round of talks with counterpart Vladimir Putin.

Mr. Putin has been a sharp critic of NATO expansion, especially any further movement towards Russia's borders.

Russia also strongly opposes to U.S. plans to deploy an anti-missile defense system in central Europe, describing it as a threat to its security. But the U.S. says the planned system, which won the support of NATO leaders, is aimed at protecting Europe from an attack from the Middle East.

Earlier, NATO and Russia signed a transit deal allowing the shipment of non-lethal freight across Russian territory to alliance forces in Afghanistan.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP