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Robertson: Disagreements About Turkey Do Not Endanger NATO - 2003-02-21


The head of NATO says the internal dispute over defending Turkey in case of war in Iraq is not as bad as it seems, and urged people on both sides of the Atlantic to calm down.

NATO Secretary-General George Robertson says the clash has damaged the alliance, but not as badly as reports would suggest.

He told reporters in Washington Thursday that the alliance is united on defending Turkey.

He says it is also united on the fundamental question about Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and his need to comply with the U.N. Security Council disarmament resolution.

"There is no disagreement about the necessity of disarming Saddam, nor about the importance, and the urgency of getting compliance with Resolution 1441. There is unanimity on that," emphasized Mr. Robertson.

Last week, France, Germany, and Belgium blocked Turkey's request to start defense arrangements, saying preparing for war now would send the signal that peace was not possible. But on Sunday, NATO's defense committee, of which France is not a member, reached an agreement. The full alliance formally agreed on Wednesday to send Patriot anti-missile batteries, chemical and biological response units, and AWACS surveillance planes to Turkey.

Mr. Robertson noted that disagreements are bound to happen among democratic governments, but they don't mean the end of NATO.

"Nobody can write off this alliance on the basis of this one argument," he said. "We've had arguments in the past. We'll undoubtedly have arguments in the future. But NATO is not the Warsaw Pact. People come with propositions to NATO, and they are argued out among democratic countries."

Mr. Robertson said anti-American rhetoric in Europe and anti-European rhetoric in the United States is unfair and damaging to both, as well as to NATO.

"I think on both sides of the Atlantic people need to cool down, get things into perspective, recognize that the values that unite this alliance, and this island of stability in a very dangerous and volatile world are worth protecting," he said.

Mr. Robertson added that NATO will face worse enemies in the future and needs to face them united.

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