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Thursday November 15th, 2018 3:29AM

The Latest: NATO invites Macedonia to start membership talks

By The Associated Press
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BRUSSELS (AP) — The Latest on the NATO summit (all times local):

5:30 p.m.

NATO leaders have formally invited Macedonia to start membership talks with the alliance, while cautioning that it can't be completed until the name issue is resolved.

The invitation, formalized in a communique at the NATO summit, paves the way for the addition of the alliance's 30th member — and a plan that has run afoul of a wary Russia.

Macedonia and Greece last month signed a deal in which Macedonia will change its name to North Macedonia. In exchange, Athens has unblocked efforts by its northern neighbor to join both NATO and the European Union.

NATO said Wednesday that "solution of the name issue is a condition for a successful conclusion of the accession process."

___

4:50 p.m.

There was no way the World Cup wasn't going to come up at the NATO summit —especially with French President Emmanuel Macron and Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel both there.

Many Belgians are convinced that the Red Devils should be playing in Sunday's final in Moscow, not Les Bleus, despite Belgium's 1-0 loss to France in their semifinal Tuesday night.

During Wednesday's opening statement at the NATO summit, Michel veered away from discussions on military spending and Russia.

He addressed Macron directly and said "frankly, Emmanuel, yesterday the French team was very lucky."

"Belgians are generally not too chauvinist," Michel said, before boasting "Belgium played a great game against France."

Then he tried to pull the discussion back to military issues.

"Like in football, fair play and team spirit is what we need more than ever," Michel said in an apparent jab at President Donald Trump who keeps questioning why Washington must carry such a heavy financial burden in defense of the West.

Trump didn't immediately respond. After all, the U.S. team failed to make it to the World Cup finals.

___

4:20 p.m.

The Turkish foreign minister has defended his country's purchase of a Russian-made air defense system, the first of its kind by a NATO member.

Mevlut Cavusoglu (May-VLOOT CHA-voosh-oh-loo) insists "Turkey is a sovereign country" and says its acquisition of the S400 anti-aircraft system came only because it needed such a system and ran out of other options, such as from the United States.

Cavusoglu spoke at a panel discussion Wednesday before a NATO summit in Brussels.

The S400s wouldn't be compatible with many other NATO systems that Turkey has and operates.

"It is my urgent need and I tried to buy from many other countries — including China, but I get the best deal from Russia, and I bought it," Cavusoglu said.

"I tried to buy from my allies."

___

11:15 a.m.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says his country is offering to lead NATO's new military training mission in Iraq for the first year and stands ready to provide 250 troops plus helicopters for the effort.

Trudeau said Wednesday that it is important to help build the conflict-ravaged country's resilience against the Islamic State group.

Speaking at a German Marshall Fund event on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Brussels, Trudeau said that "we have to build that democracy and strengthen it," and doing so "is something that we believe in deeply."

NATO leaders are expected to announce later Wednesday that the alliance is stepping up its troop training and military academy building effort in Iraq, with hundreds of trainers operating out of the capital, Baghdad.

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