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Slovenia endorsing EU membership

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LJUBLJANA, Slovenia (Reuters) -- Slovenians on Sunday backed membership of NATO and the European Union in a referendum overshadowed by the U.S.-led war in Iraq which has divided both blocs, exit polls showed.

An exit poll broadcast by one television station just after voting finished at 1800 GMT showed voters endorsing NATO membership by 56.1 percent and EU membership by 90.3 percent.

Another exit poll by a separate TV station showed voters backing NATO accession by 60.3 percent and EU membership by 92.7 percent.

The prosperous country of two million people, which broke away from the former Yugoslavia in 1991, was holding the first and possibly only referendum on accession to NATO among the seven former communist states invited last year to join by the military alliance.

While EU accession was widely tipped for approval, the vote on NATO remained uncertain until the end as support dipped after start of the U.S.-led war against Iraq.

Both referendums are binding for the Slovenian government. The country is expected to join the EU and NATO in May 2004.

Copyright 2003 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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