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Bush Meets NATO Secretary General


NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer says the trans-Atlantic alliance is winning the war in Afghanistan and is a force for peace in an independent Kosovo. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, the NATO leader met with President Bush Friday for talks ahead of April's NATO summit in Romania.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, President Bush said the United States is committed to the NATO mission in Afghanistan.

"We are committed to a comprehensive strategy that helps folks in Afghanistan realize security at the same time economic prosperity and political progress."

While all 26 NATO members have troops in Afghanistan, some have limited their deployments to safer areas where combat with Taliban fighters is less likely.

The United States wants more NATO troops from more member states on the frontlines.

De Hoop Scheffer said the alliance has a long-term commitment to Afghanistan.

"We are there for the long haul. We are there to support President Karzai and the Afghan people," he said. "But we are also there because we are fighting terrorism, and we cannot afford to lose. We will not lose. We are not losing. We are prevailing."

The status of that fight and the deployment of member troops will be a major topic at April's NATO summit in Bucharest.

The two leaders discussed the summit agenda which will also include U.S. plans for a missile defense system in Europe and a vote on expanding the alliance to include Croatia, Albania, and Macedonia.

President Bush said he appreciates NATO's role in helping stabilize the Balkans, where NATO air strikes stopped Belgrade's crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists in 1999 and drove Serbian security forces from Kosovo.

Serbia opposes Kosovo's declaration of independence earlier this month, saying it violates terms of a United Nations mandate that has administered the province for the last nine years.

The United States has recognized the newly independent Kosovo and President Bush has commended Kosovo's leaders for vowing to protect the rights of both the majority Albanians and minority Serbs.

De Hoop Scheffer said NATO forces in Kosovo are there to protect all Kosovars - Albanians and Serbs.

The NATO summit in Romania runs from April 2 - 4.

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