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BUCHAREST (Reuters) - Romania is drafting a deal with Washington to set up U.S. military bases on the Black Sea, Romanian Defense Minister Teodor Atanasiu said on Thursday.
The United States wants to shift its European strategic focus eastwards, and new NATO members Romania and Bulgaria have been promoting airfields and bases as potential new hubs for U.S. forces as Washington pulls 70,000 troops out of central Europe and Asia in the next decade.
State news agency Rompres quoted Atanasiu as saying a memorandum, now being discussed by diplomats, would lay down the terms for American deployment in the Balkan country's territory.
"The talks are underway ... The commitment for setting up these bases somewhere in the Black Sea area will be achieved through a political memorandum," Atanasiu told Rompres.
Washington's realignment plans are expected to involve a shift to small, flexible military bases in the former eastern bloc as it reduces its presence in Germany, a Cold War legacy.
The bases are seen as important in Romania's drive to secure more foreign investment to close the enormous wealth gap separating it from the European Union, which it hopes to join as early as 2007.
Romanian military officials said the country had offered a location at Kogalniceanu near the Black Sea and also a shooting range at Babadag, 30 km (18 miles) south of Kogalniceanu.
U.S. soldiers used the Kogalniceanu airbase in southeastern Romania as a hub to send equipment and 7,000 combat troops into Iraq during the early stages of the 2003 Iraq War, and temporarily kept up to 3,500 American troops there.
The U.S. embassy was not immediately available for comment.
-------------------- America's debt problem is a "sign of leadership failure"
We have "reckless fiscal policies"
America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership.
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