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Rumsfeld Arrives in Brussels for NATO Talks - 2003-06-11

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has arrived in Brussels for talks with his NATO counterparts that will be focused on post-war Iraq and the alliance's military reorganization to cope with 21st century challenges.

The situation in Iraq will top the agenda of the two-day meeting of NATO defense ministers Thursday and Friday. Mr. Rumsfeld and British Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon will brief their colleagues on the lessons that have been learned so far from the Iraq war, such as the need in future combat operations for highly mobile forces.

But plans to slim down NATO's command structure to allow it to better face sudden, unpredictable threats, have been delayed because of a dispute among some of the allies over where to locate bases.

NATO is seeking to shift its focus away from the static posture of the Cold War era to more agile forces able to project power wherever threats arise, both within and beyond Europe.

The allies have agreed to restructure NATO's main operational commands and regional headquarters, but plans to slash the number of the alliance's bases in half have angered some nations, namely Spain and Greece, because of the loss of civilian jobs the move entails.

NATO is just now emerging from a crisis caused by differences among the allies over the Iraq war. But diplomats say the alliance is determined to survive by taking on new roles outside of its traditional Euro-Atlantic theater. NATO has agreed to take command of peacekeeping operations in Afghanistan in August, and it recently voted to help Poland establish a multinational stabilization force in Iraq.

Before flying to Brussels, Mr. Rumsfeld spoke at an international studies center in the German town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen that trains mid-level military and civilian officials from former communist countries. He issued a call for transatlantic unity, saying it is critical to the allies' mutual security as they come to grips with the twin threats of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.

Mr. Rumsfeld had special praise for Poland and Romania. He said that, because of their fresh memories of tyranny and occupation, they are among those most willing to face the new threats. And he said that NATO's seven future members, all of them from the former communist bloc, should be welcomed as full and equal partners within the alliance.