The U.S. defense secretary is in Macedonia, where he will participate in a meeting of the region's defense ministers.

Robert Gates arrived Tuesday in the southwestern town of Ohrid for the annual meeting of the Southeast Europe Defense Ministers.

He will attend an informal meeting of NATO defense officials in the Hungarian capital, Budapest, on Thursday and Friday.

Macedonia is a candidate for NATO membership, but alliance member Greece has blocked Macedonia's bid because Macedonia shares its name with a Greek province.

Gates arrived today from Kosovo, the Serbian province that declared independence in February. In the capital, Pristina, Gates reaffirmed U.S. support for Kosovo's territorial integrity and vowed to maintain a U.S. military presence there until at least 2009.

Secretary Gates is the most senior U.S. official to visit Kosovo since it declared independence.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.