Rumsfeld Tours Romanian Airfield

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld toured an air base outside this Black Sea city on Monday that was used extensively by American air forces to ferry war supplies to Afghanistan and Iraq.

Romania, which joined the US-led NATO alliance this year, has offered a more permanent arrangement for U.S. use of Constanta's military facilities, but Rumsfeld was not here to negotiate a deal, his aides said before his arrival.

Later Rumsfeld was flying to Bucharest (search), the Romanian capital for meetings with senior government leaders and on Wednesday was scheduled to attend a NATO meeting at a resort in central Romania.

Rumsfeld flew here from Skopje, Macedonia where he met with senior government officials. At a news conference in Skopje (search), Rumsfeld said the Bush administration supports Macedonia's efforts to become a NATO member.

Macedonia is a former republic of Yugoslavia and it is struggling with its own ethnic tensions between the Muslim, Slavic and ethnic Albanian parts of its population.

Rumsfeld told reporters he had encouraged the Macedonian government to fully implement a 2001 agreement to achieve more political power sharing among its ethnic groups.

"Success in moving closer to NATO will depend in large part on implementation of the 2001 framework agreement, including the creation of stronger, more effective local government," he said.

In August Macedonia adopted a law to decentralize political power as part of the 2001 agreements. A November 7 national referendum will determine the fate of that new step.

Rumsfeld said the August legislation "certainly helps strengthen democracy here at the grass roots level. The Macedonian people face a clear choice between a future with NATO in which stability and economic growth can flourish or a return to the past. We support your sovereignty and territorial integrity and your vision to become a part of NATO."

Rumsfeld and his Romanian counterpart signed an agreement to increase cooperation in combatting the spread of weapons of mass destruction. Under terms of the agreement the United States will provide equipment and training materials valued at $258,000 to monitor and detect trafficking of elicit weapons material.

At a ceremony in Skopje, Rumsfeld awarded Bronze Star (search) medals to two Macedonian soldiers for exceptional valor in combat actions in Iraq in which they were credited with saving the lives of at least two U.S. soldiers in 2003.