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NATO: Alliance Keeps Low Profile On U.S. Retaliation

  • Ahto Lobjakas

Brussels, 19 September 2001 (RFE/RL) -- The United States has not formally requested NATO assistance in its pursuit of those responsible for last week's terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. A NATO official who spoke on condition of anonymity said NATO's chief decision-making body -- the North Atlantic Council -- met today in Brussels to discuss the "security situation of the North-Atlantic area." The official said information was exchanged at the meeting, but that no decisions were made since the United States has not yet submitted any request for assistance.

At today's meetings, U.S. officials provided their 18 NATO allies with more details about what they described as America's "single largest investigation," which is seeking to identify and apprehend those responsible for the 11 September attacks.

The NATO official says the U.S. response has three distinct "facets." First, a diplomatic effort to build an international anti-terrorist coalition. Second, an "economic component" that aims to cut off the funding for the terrorists. Third, the military option that, according to the NATO official, "no one can rule out."

The official said consultations between the U.S. and its allies will continue tomorrow, when NATO ambassadors in Brussels are briefed by U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, who is on his way from Moscow.

The official said NATO has already held meetings with experts to discuss the development of a new airborne ground surveillance system to help fight terrorism. The system, however, is not expected to be operational before 2010.

Another senior NATO official, also speaking anonymously, said NATO defense ministers will hold an unscheduled informal meeting near Naples, Italy, on 26-27 September. The senior NATO official said the United States is expected to inform its allies of "steps that have been taken or are being considered" in response to last week's terrorist attacks.

He said he expects American allies to demonstrate their "determination and solidarity" at the Naples meeting in accordance with the alliance's decision last week to invoke Article 5, the mutual defense provision in NATO's founding charter.

NATO defense ministers will also meet Russia's Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov.

NATO ambassadors today also discussed the situation in the Balkans and particularly the request by Macedonia's President Boris Trajkovski for a "follow-on" NATO force to protect international monitors. The pullout of the troops assigned to implement the "Essential Harvest" mission is due to begin on 27 September and last 10 to 14 days. But the troops are not expected to take on any new duties once their initial task of collecting Albanian rebel weapons is exhausted.

NATO sources say the alliance is preparing its response to the request of the Macedonian government in close contact with the European Union and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which are expected to provide most of the observers. However, they say NATO is intent on "pulling out all stops" in its efforts to secure a long-term peace in Macedonia.

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