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NATO Secretary-General Chairs Last Meeting Before Leaving Post

NATO Secretary-General George Robertson chaired his last NATO meeting Wednesday as his four-year term ends this year. Observers say Mr. Robertson is credited with transforming the alliance from a cold-war relic to a body responding to new global security threats.

With bagpipes playing to honor his Scottish ancestry, Mr. Robertson said goodbye to the alliance that he guided into the 21st century.

The secretary-general was fond of saying that, rather than allowing NATO to go out of business, he got it to go out of area.

During his term, NATO for the first time deployed troops outside of Europe, taking command of international peacekeepers in Afghanistan and providing behind-the-scenes support in Iraq. It also consolidated operations in the Balkans.

"We've gone from Kosovo to Kabul and we'll make a success of that and the people of Afghanistan will know that NATO means business," he said.

In a farewell speech to NATO's North Atlantic Council, the secretary-general said NATO was tested by new deadly external threats, as well as internal stresses, during his tenure.

Mr. Robertson was the first NATO head to invoke the alliance's mutual defense clause, a move that followed the September 11 attacks in the United States.

His biggest test was a bitter diplomatic fight that threatened to shatter the alliance earlier this year over whether to strengthen Turkey's defenses ahead of the Iraq war. France and Germany, which opposed the war, accused him of a pro-American bias. Some European critics of Mr. Robertson also accused him bullying tactics to get measures adopted by NATO.