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No Need for Another Organization to Compete With NATO, says Rumsfeld - 2003-11-30

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says there is no reason for another defense organization to compete with NATO. Mr. Rumsfeld made the comments a day after European Union leaders discussed their own military planning and command group.

Secretary Rumsfeld told reporters shortly after arriving in Brussels that NATO has an extraordinary record of contributing to world peace.

His remarks followed a decision by European Union foreign ministers to back a proposal for an EU military planning and command group, based at NATO's military headquarters here in Belgium.

Washington has worried that such an arrangement would needlessly duplicate resources, and create an entity rivaling NATO.

Mr. Rumsfeld said there is no need for any group that would compete with NATO. "I certainly think that NATO has a fabulous record over most of my adult lifetime of contributing to defense and deterrence and a more peaceful world," said Mr. Rumsfeld. "Therefore, I would say anything that puts at risk that institution, you would have to have a very good reason for wanting to do it. I think there is no reason for something else to be competitive with NATO, myself."

Secretary Rumsfeld is in Brussels for a meeting of alliance defense ministers, and discussions are expected on current deployments, such as those in Afghanistan and Bosnia.

Mr. Rumsfeld says he supports NATO's efforts in Afghanistan to expand the International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, beyond the capital, Kabul.

"The first task was for NATO to step forward and agree to undertake the first out-of-area,out of a NATO treaty area, responsibility, and they did that by taking over ISAF," he said. "To do that, they needed to get commitments of various capabilities. My understanding is that, within the last week, those capabilities have been committed."

NATO defense ministers are also expected to discuss reducing the peacekeeping force in Bosnia.

Mr. Rumsfeld indicated that the security situation there is evolving.

"There are a growing number of people who feel that the situation in Bosnia is such that troop levels can continue to decline, and that it is moving away, it is evolving in a way, that it is less of a military challenge, and increasingly will become more of a police challenge," said Mr. Rumsfeld.

During the defense ministers meeting, NATO will launch a new battalion designed to respond and defend against weapons of mass destruction.

The alliance says the battalion is a significant part of NATO's transformation to meet the new security challenges of the 21st century.