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Blair Worries NATO May Fail in Iraq, Afghanistan - 2004-06-30

British Prime Minister Tony Blair says he is worried some NATO countries do not realize the sense of urgency needed to defeat terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In a report to parliament on the just-concluded NATO summit, Mr. Blair expressed concern that the NATO alliance may fail to meet its commitments to Iraq and Afghanistan.

"What now happens in Iraq and Afghanistan affects us here, as it does every nation, supportive or not of the actions we have taken," said Mr. Blair. "NATO's focus on these issues shows at least a start to understanding this threat and its implications. But I worry frankly that our response is still not sufficient for the scale of the challenge we face."

Mr. Blair said that if NATO does not step forward and provide the necessary security, both Iraq and Afghanistan could end up becoming terrorist havens.

"The fact is both in Iraq and Afghanistan, as I say, the problem is not complicated to describe, the problem is simple to describe, its security," he added. "I mean, everything else in those two countries would move ahead at speed were the security situation better. That is precisely what NATO should be able to do. And I think there is still, at least in certain quarters, not the right sense of urgency in meeting the challenge that we face."

Mr. Blair did not name any specific countries, but there have been complaints that Spain, Belgium and Turkey have not fulfilled their pledges for troops and equipment ahead of September's election in Afghanistan, which has been designated as NATO's top priority.

Regarding Iraq, the NATO summit made a general commitment to train the Iraqi army, but did not endorse a more vigorous peacekeeping role. France, Germany, Belgium and Spain say individual NATO countries can provide training, but not under official NATO auspices.

Mr. Blair told parliament he hopes a plan will be developed by the end of July to train the Iraqi police and military. He called it a "crucial task" to give Iraqi security forces the training, leadership and equipment they need to defeat the terrorists.