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NATO Ministers Prepare to Discuss Afghanistan, Kosovo 

Lisa Bryant

The NATO meeting is planned just three days before a December 10 deadline set by the United Nations to come up with some kind of resolution on Kosovo. That is unlikely to happen since talks between Kosovo and Serbian politicians have collapsed - and Kosovo's Albanian majority wants to declare independence from Serbia.

Defense expert Thomas Valasek says the key question for NATO is not whether it will maintain its 1,600-man peacekeeping force in Kosovo after December 10, but just what role it will play.

"By now, the NATO allies should have run through all the possible scenarios of what could happen in Kosovo on the assumption there will be a unilateral declaration of independence. And NATO should be fully preparing along with the European Union and United Nations for all the possible scenarios," he said.

Valasek, an analyst at the London-based Center for European Reform, says those scenarios include how to deal with violence and refugees following a likely independence declaration by Kosovo. But he says NATO is not getting clear instructions about what its role should be from member nations.

Afghanistan is another stumbling block. The United States has asked NATO members to beef up their commitment in there - with little response, Valasek notes.

"It is an incredibly frustrating process for the NATO secretary general. It is an incredibly corrosive process for the cohesion within the alliance," he said. "There are a number of allies - the Dutch, the Canadians, the Brits - who rightly feel they are not being given enough solidarity."

The Brussels talks will also mark the first time the foreign ministers meet with their counterpart Sergei Lavrov of non-NATO member Russia, since Moscow suspended its participation in the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty that deals with arms deployment in the region.

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