NATO members approve U.S. request for military assistance in anti-terrorism campaign

By Constant Brand

Associated Press

BRUSSELS, Belgium – NATO approved the United States’ request for specific military contributions in the campaign against terrorism on Thursday, the alliance’s secretary-general said.

The decision backs up earlier promises with military hardware and intelligence, after Washington’s 18 NATO allies said they were convinced by U.S. evidence of Osama bin Laden’s involvement in the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington.

“Today’s decision clearly demonstrates the allies’ resolve to combat terrorism,” Secretary-General Lord Robertson said. He added the commitments were “clearly not time-limited.”

NATO officials have refused to divulge the content of the list of requests nor speculate on when the assistance might be called on.

But in Rome, Italy’s Foreign Minister Renato Ruggiero said the U.S. requests to NATO include access to alliance members’ ports, airspace and airports and the ordering up of naval forces in the Mediterranean.

“The alliance is ready to deploy elements of its standing naval forces,” Robertson said.

Ruggiero also said the United States had asked that NATO members make available alliance radar aircraft and provide financial aid to Pakistan and other countries involved in the campaign.

Diplomatic sources at alliance headquarters have said the aid requested was essentially a compilation of the kinds of support the United States already has obtained from member states on a bilateral basis.

France, for example, has agreed to American requests to open its airspace and has offered naval and logistics support in the Indian Ocean.

Germany said the U.S. request included cooperation on intelligence, protection of U.S. installations in NATO countries, unlimited overflight rights and air space surveillance. The chancellor said he told the German representative to NATO to cooperate in helping the United States with its needs.

On Tuesday, the allies formally invoked NATO’s Article 5, which says an attack against one member is an attack against all.

The decision on the request for assistance from the United States was taken by the so-called silent procedure, by which the member states agree if they do not raise objections by a certain deadline.

Copyright ©2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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