Nice summit affirms France's role in NATO

8th February 2005, Comments 0 comments

NICE, France, Feb 8 (AFP) - France this week will host a meeting of NATO defence ministers, an event it says reasserts its role in the transatlantic alliance despite having withdrawn from the integrated military command nearly four decades ago.

NICE, France, Feb 8 (AFP) - France this week will host a meeting of NATO defence ministers, an event it says reasserts its role in the transatlantic alliance despite having withdrawn from the integrated military command nearly four decades ago.

"It's a first for our country, a symbol of France's desire to affirm its role in this organisation from which it historically maintains a certain independence since its withdrawal in 1966 from the integrated military command," French Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie told Tuesday's edition of the Nice Matin newspaper.

The summit, to be held in the French Riviera city of Nice on Wednesday and Thursday, will be the first time NATO's defence ministers have gathered in France since president Charles de Gaulle's decision to pull out of NATO's military wing.

In practice, NATO decisions are often made at the political level in which France participates fully.

But some decisions of a purely military nature may be made within the military structure excluding France, as last occurred when the United States was pushing NATO allies to support its invasion of Iraq in search of weapons of mass destruction.

Alliot-Marie said the summit's informal nature "will allow the ministers present to cover sensitive current topics: Afghanistan, Kosovo, Iraq's reconstruction. It will be an occasion to prepare the directions for the next formal summit."

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld will be among the ministers attending. He is expected to ask NATO countries to do more for Iraq, notably by increasing training of Iraqi security forces.

France and Germany - both of which opposed the invasion of Iraq - have agreed to provide such training, but not within Iraq itself.

NATO commanders said last year they planned to send 300 military instructors to Iraq to train Iraqi officers, but so far have deployed only around 100 to Baghdad.

The Nice summit will precede a meeting of the leaders of the 26 nations in Nato in Brussels on February 22.

US President George W. Bush and French President Jacques Chirac will both be attending after having private talks over dinner the night before.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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