Nato – organisation could mark 60th birthday on France-Germany border:
BRUSSELS, March 4, 2008 - The NATO military alliance could hold asummit to mark its 60th anniversary on the Rhine River along the French-Germanborder, a NATO diplomat said Monday. "Germany and France have agreed to propose that the summit be held in thecities of Strasbourg and Kehl at the same time," the diplomat said. Holding the summit in Strasbourg, the northeast city that is home to theEuropean Parliament, and neighbouring Kehl, would also be symbolic in that itwould mark a new French rapprochement with NATO. French President Nicolas Sarkozy said in August that he would take "verystrong" initiatives to build up European defence and renew the NATO militaryalliance, while giving France "its full place" in the organisation. Experts believe Sarkozy could soon move to end a 30-year French boycott ofthe North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, held at arm's length since presidentCharles de Gaulle withdrew from its integrated military command in 1966. France has taken part in NATO deployments to the Balkans in the 1990s andis part of the NATO-led security force in Afghanistan. It also helped withNATO disaster relief work following the earthquake in Pakistan two years ago. The last time a summit of heads of state and government was held in Francewas in 1957 in Paris, where NATO's headquarters were based at the time. A NATO-Russia summit in 1997 really only focused on their bilateralrelations. Another NATO diplomat underlined that "nothing had been discussed orformally decided for the moment as far as the summit goes". But discussions at NATO are believed to be focused on the best date, ratherthan location, for the meeting, which would follow the alliance's next bigsummit in Bucharest on April 2-4.