NATO chief to spell out plans for wider reach

3rd February 2006, Comments 0 comments

3 February 2006, MUNICH - NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer will spell out his plans for expanding the Alliance's global reach in an address to the annual Munich Security Conference which opens later Friday.

3 February 2006

MUNICH - NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer will spell out his plans for expanding the Alliance's global reach in an address to the annual Munich Security Conference which opens later Friday.

Scheffer is expected to address the meeting - dubbed the "Davos of security" - on Saturday. Davos is the Swiss Alpine resort venue for the World Economic Forum's annual meeting.

NATO diplomats said Scheffer was not interested in turning the 26- nation Alliance into a global policeman or in replacing the United Nations.

"NATO does not want to become an organization which will control security across the world," a NATO official told Deutsche Presse- Agentur.

However, the Alliance was interested in building more "structured relations" with other democracies, the diplomat said.

Scheffer is expected to tell the Munich meeting - attended by German Chancellor Angela Merkel as well as U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld - that NATO is planning to extend its network of partner nations, especially in the Asia-Pacific.

Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea have voiced increasing interest in strengthening their relationship with the Alliance.

NATO membership for these states is obviously not on the cards. But "NATO wants to have the resources and the forces to act in faraway places," the NATO diplomat said.

Alliance troops are already leading the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, with the participation of both Australia and New Zealand.

Expanding its role, NATO has just completed an unprecedented humanitarian relief operation in Pakistan, following the devastating earthquake which destroyed the northern regions of the country last October.

Airlift help by NATO allies is being provided to African Union troops in Sudan's war-wrecked Darfur province. The operation could be expanded if the UN takes on a stronger role in Darfur.

Significantly, in an interview with Britain's Financial Times newspaper, Rumsfeld said Washington wanted to reduce the number of American troops in Kosovo and would like NATO to take on more responsibility for the mission.

The US has about 1,700 troops attached to a 16,000-strong NATO mission in Kosovo.

The US has long argued for a stronger global role for NATO but France has repeatedly said it will not endorse such ideas.

Others have voiced concerns that such an expanded remit for NATO will strain Europe's already overstretched defense budgets.

However, Scheffer's plans are expected to be discussed at the Munich conference which will also debate Iran's nuclear programme, the victory of Hamas in last month's Palestinian legislative elections and rising rage in Islamic countries over newspaper caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed.

DPA

Subject: German news

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