Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says Belgium, France, and Germany made a mistake by blocking NATO plans for defending Turkey in the event of a war with Iraq.
Mr. Rumsfeld says he does not believe the dispute will threaten NATO's long-term survival nor will it prevent countries from coming to Turkey's aid.
But appearing at the Pentagon with visiting Australian Prime Minister John Howard, Mr. Rumsfeld was blunt in his criticism of Belgium, France and Germany.
"It is unfortunate that they are in stark disagreement with the rest of their NATO allies," he said. "[They are] three countries. There are 19 countries in NATO. So it is 16 to three. I think it is a mistake, and what we have to do for the United States is make sure that that planning does go forward."
The United States wants NATO to send early warning radar planes to Turkey, along with Patriot anti-missile batteries, and chemical and biological detection equipment.
Mr. Rumsfeld said Turkey is an important NATO ally as well as a moderate Muslim state, and Belgium, France and Germany are preventing the alliance from fulfilling its responsibilities to a member country.
But the defense secretary said he is optimistic NATO members will eventually find a way to support Turkey.
Mr. Rumsfeld also makes clear the dispute within NATO will not block a possible U.S.-led attack on Iraq if President Bush decides to go to war.
Australian Prime Minister Howard says if there is any hope for avoiding war, it is only if the whole world, and especially Arab countries, unite in making clear to Baghdad that it must abandon its programs for weapons of mass destruction. He also says he does not believe the United States should have to single-handedly confront Iraq.