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NATO Attaches Strings To Iraq Role

26 April 2004 -- NATO has said it will consider a greater role in Iraq only if a string of conditions are met.

NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer outlined those conditions during a visit to Norway today. He said NATO "could enter the discussion" on Iraq if "a sovereign, legitimate Iraqi government with full powers" takes over after 30 June. He also said the new Iraqi government would have to direct a request to NATO on the basis of a new UN Security Council resolution, "giving a specific mandate to a stabilization force."

NATO is currently providing logistical support for a Polish-led division in Iraq.

De Hoop Scheffer told a news conference after talks with Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik that Afghanistan, as he put it, "is clearly the first priority."

Meanwhile, top envoys from NATO were visiting Afghanistan today.

Ambassadors to the North Atlantic Council, the alliance's decision-making body, traveled to Kabul for the first time, eight months after the alliance took over the 6,500-strong International Security and Assistance mission in the Afghan capital.

The visit comes as NATO struggles to make good on a pledge to expand the mission into more cities in northern and western Afghanistan.

Afghan authorities and U.S. officials say a wider mission is vital to establishing stability in the country, but NATO states have been slow in providing troops.

"There are a number of [NATO] countries that are not present in Iraq," U.S. Ambassador to NATO Nicholas Burns told reporters as he flew to Kabul. "And they could do more in Afghanistan."

The NATO ambassadors were scheduled to meet with Afghan President Hamid Karzai later today.