Cheney meets with Croatian leaders, repeats support for membership in NATO and EU

U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney met with Croatian leaders on Saturday and went sightseeing with his wife in a picturesque city by the Adriatic Sea on the final stop of a three-nation trip overseas.

Standing next to Prime Minister Ivo Sander, Cheney said the United States is "strongly supportive of Croatia becoming a full member of the trans-Atlantic community, in terms of working with NATO and the E.U."

Cheney said the Bush administration is "deeply appreciative" of Croatia's help in Afghanistan, and he said that "all Americans are tremendously impressed with how far Croatia has come" in a short period.

Cheney met with Sander on the terrace of a seaside restaurant featuring a spectacular view of stone fortifications dating back hundreds of years.

Earlier, the vice president held talks with Croatian President Stipe Mesic, although neither man made any public comments.

In between the meetings, Cheney and his wife, Lynne, toured the old part of the city. Aides said they stopped at a 14th-century Franciscan monastery as well as the Church of St. Blaise, built in 1715. They also saw the Rector's Palace, which houses the Dubrovnik Museum.

The vice president flew to Croatia for talks on Sunday with the heads of Croatia, Albania and Macedonia, the three members of the Adriatic charter that was established two years ago. All three countries are allies in the war on terror and all three want membership in NATO.

Former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell attended the charter signing ceremony in Albania on May 5, 2005. U.S. President George W. Bush issued a statement at the time that said the document "affirms the signatories political commitment to the values and principles of the NATO alliance."

During the Cold War, Macedonia and Croatia were part of Yugoslavia, a nation whose leaders sought to keep its distance from the Soviet Union despite its location. Albania was a communist country, reports AP.

O.Ch.