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Monday July 16th, 2018 1:07AM

The Latest: Romanian president welcomes new NATO base

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

2:45 p.m.

Romanian President Klaus Iohannis says NATO has agreed to build a three-star command structure in Romania hosting 400 troops.

The East European country is concerned about defending its borders and about Russian aggression after Crimea was annexed in 2014.

Speaking at the end of the NATO summit, Iohannis said Thursday the alliance will upgrade a multinational brigade in the southern city of Craiova that opened last year to a permanent base.

At the summit, Romania agreed to increase the number of troops in Afghanistan from 700 to 950, something Parliament needs to approve.

Romania will spend 2 percent of its gross domestic product on defense, and Iohannis said other members "will try to spend more than 2 percent."

He denied that the U.S. President Donald Trump had been aggressive in his demands to make members up their spending.

"Trump said things plainly as is normal between friends and allies. ... We committed ourselves to spending a bit more."

___

1:30 p.m.

French President Emmanuel Macron has denied reports that U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to withdraw the United States from the NATO military alliance in a dispute over funding.

"President Trump never at any moment, either in public or in private, threatened to withdraw from NATO," Macron told reporters.

He said the leaders of the alliance's 29 members met in an extraordinary session on Thursday morning at the request of NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.

Trump has complained that many NATO members are lagging behind in their defense spending.

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1:20 p.m.

French President Emmanuel Macron has denied President Donald Trump's claim that NATO allies have agreed to boost defense spending beyond 2 percent of gross domestic product.

Macron said: There is a communique that was published yesterday. It's very detailed."

He added: "It confirms the goal of 2 percent by 2024. That's all."

The summit statement affirms a commitment made in 2014 after Russia annexed Crimea that NATO allies would halt defense spending cuts, start spending more as their economies grow, with the aim of moving toward 2 percent of GDP within a decade.

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12:50 p.m.

Polish President Andrzej Duda says the debates over NATO spending that U.S. President Donald Trump has triggered are paying off for countries like his on the eastern flank because they have led to more spending by allies on their militaries.

Appearing to brush off the severity of divisions between Trump and other NATO members, Duda said the important thing for his nation is that new commitments have been made to secure the region near Russia.

Duda said he would be "shocked" if Trump made any move would decrease the region's security. He noted that he had met with Trump the evening before and they discussed increasing the U.S. troop presence in Poland.

Duda also told reporters Thursday that the leaders' meetings were confidential and that he was surprised at other leaders who leaked details to the media.

___

12:30 p.m.

U.S. President Donald Trump says the U.S. commitment to NATO "remains very strong" despite reports that he threated to pull out in a dispute over defense spending.

Trump says at a news conference Thursday in Brussels that he told "people" that he would be "very unhappy" if they didn't increase their commitments.

Trump says the U.S. has been paying "probably 90 percent of the costs of NATO."

Trump adds that he was "extremely unhappy with what was happening and they have substantially upped their commitment."

NATO had no immediate comment.

Trump once declared NATO "obsolete." He says Thursday: "I believe in NATO."

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12:15 p.m.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has told reporters in Brussels that "there was a clear commitment to NATO by all" at an emergency session of the military alliance.

She said that U.S. President Donald Trump raised the topic of better burden-sharing among NATO members again, "as has been discussed for months," and that, "we made clear that we're on the way."

Trump has several times assailed Germany for not spending a large enough proportion of its gross domestic product on defense.

Merkel stressed that Germany is NATO's second-biggest contributor when it comes to troops.

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11:55 a.m.

Two officials at the NATO summit in Brussels say the alliance is meeting in an emergency session amid demands from U.S. President Donald Trump for all members to spend 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense.

Officials said that non-members of the alliance had been asked to leave the room early Thursday and that everyone in the room had been told to leave their phones outside.

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9:50 a.m.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg is insisting that Georgia will one day join the world's biggest security alliance, despite separatist ambitions in parts of the former Soviet republic.

Stoltenberg said Thursday: "Georgia will become a member of NATO." He said the 29-nation alliance supports the territorial integrity of Georgia, including its sovereignty over the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Russia and Georgia fought a brief war in 2008, which led to the regions declaring independence. Russia has since been supporting them financially and militarily.

Despite Georgia's important contribution to NATO operations, the alliance is unlikely to invite the country in until the conflict with the two regions has been resolved.

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