Romania has hailed the invitation to join NATO as a new beginning. From the country's president to people on the street, there are expressions of high hopes as they see the country moving to rejoin the European family.

"This is a big historic moment and a total break with the past", is how Romanian President Ion Iliescu described the NATO invitation. In a statement, he said a big part of the ideals of the revolution of 1989 have been fulfilled.

On the streets of Bucharest, people also hailed the NATO decision. Many said it opens the door to a new future.

"It is very good for the country. It is very good for our people. And I think we need to start to go to Europe and to NATO," said one. "I am happy, very very happy," said another. "I think it is a wonderful for the Romanian nation, because we need the protection. And I think we need a normal life, that is the problem. Because in the past, it was a big problem, [relations] with other nations. We need that alliance," said a third. A fourth person offered, "I feel very good. It is a very good chance for us. And I suppose this [offers] a big future for Romania."

But one person was more cautious, saying, "I think it is okay. We should join NATO, but not now. I do not think we are ready."

Romania's president says the cost of economic, political, and other reforms has not been easy for the Romanian people to bear. But he says Romania's problems require hard work and solidarity if the country is to move forward toward Western type of lifestyle. And he says joining NATO is a key component of that effort.