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NATO Chief Calls For Alliance Role In Mideast --> Jaap de Hoop Scheffer (file photo) 12 February 2005 -- NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said today the alliance could play an important future role in the Middle East.

Speaking at an annual gathering of the world's top defense officials in Munich, NATO's secretary general said the alliance should be ready to play a major role in supporting any peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians -- if the two sides ask for its help.

German Defense Minister Peter Struck backed the call. Struck said Berlin would take part in any decision by the alliance's 26 member states to send peacekeepers to the region.

Also attending the conference, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld used a conciliatory tone, saying it is time for the United States and Europe to put their differences aside and work together in the war on terror.

The security conference continues through tomorrow.