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NATO Chief Calls For Missile Defense Despite Austerity

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen

NATO's secretary-general has urged member states to endorse a proposed antimissile system that would link alliance members into a common network despite financial constraints due to the global economic crisis.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen said it was NATO's responsibility to build "modern defenses against modern threats."

Speaking at a NATO ministers' meeting in Brussels today, Rasmussen said the costs of the proposed antimissile system would be "manageable."

"We must also decide if we want NATO to be able to defend all of Europe against the threat of missile attack. The threat is clear. The capability exists. And the costs are manageable," Rasmussen said.

"I believe we can and should make missile defense for Europe a NATO capability, because defense of our nations is what NATO is all about."

NATO defense and foreign ministers are holding a rare joint session in Brussels today to discuss a draft of a new "strategic concept" for the alliance, which is expected to focus on new threats including missiles from hostile states, terrorism, and cyberattacks.

The final version of the document is to be endorsed by NATO leaders at a summit in Lisbon in November.

The previous mission statement was adopted in 1999, soon after the Cold War ended and two years before the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States.

compiled from agency reports