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Rumsfeld Urges Greater Trans-Atlantic Cooperation

Donald Rumsfeld (file photo) 12 February 2005 -- U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said today in Munich that it is time for the United States and Europe to put their differences aside and work together in the war on terror.

The world's top gathering of security officials met today in the German city for the first full day of talks on issues ranging from nuclear threats in Iran and North Korea to a broader NATO role in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Some 240 participants are attending this year's conference, including Rumsfeld, who in remarks today called for an end to the trans-Atlantic divide.

At first, it wasn't clear that Rumsfeld would attend this year's annual security conference.

Rumsfeld -- who angered participants two years ago by referring to countries opposed to the Iraq war as "old Europe" -- agreed to attend this year's conference only after a German court dropped a threat of legal action over his role in the Abu Ghurayb prison torture scandal.

But speaking today, Rumsfeld appeared conciliatory and good-humored -- even poking fun at the "old Europe" scandal:

"When I first mentioned that I might be traveling this week to France and Germany it raised some eyebrows," he said. "One wag said, 'That ought to be an interesting trip, after all that's been said.' I paused and thought for a moment and replied, 'Oh, that was old Rumsfeld.'"

Rumsfeld also appeared intent on mending trans-Atlantic ties damaged by the U.S.-led Iraq campaign and what European countries criticized as growing American unilateralism.

Saying it would take the cooperation of many nations to successfully wage the global war on terror, Rumsfeld said it was time for the United States and Europe to put their differences aside and work together to fight weapons proliferation and mounting extremism:

"By now it must be clear that one nation cannot defeat these extremists alone. Neither can any one nation successfully combat the asymmetric threats of this new era. It will take the cooperation of many nations to stop the proliferation of dangerous weapons. It's a global concern and it requires a global effort," Rumsfeld said.

Rumsfeld cited the NATO alliance as a united body with a common purpose that was not adversely affected by occasional differences between the United States and Europe.

He said cooperation between the United States and other NATO members had led to nearly three-quarters of the leaders of the Al-Qaeda terror movement being either killed or captured.

Rumsfeld's remarks followed a speech by German Defense Minister Peter Struck, who said challenges remained to making NATO an ideal forum for trans-Atlantic discourse.

"[NATO] is no longer the primary place where trans-Atlantic partners consult and coordinate their strategic ideas. The same goes for the dialogue between the European Union and the United States which in its present form does not correspond with the growing weight of the alliance or the new challenges of trans-Atlantic cooperation," Struck said.

Struck also called on the United States to back European diplomatic efforts to convince Iran to abandon its suspected nuclear weapons program. Struck said Iran would only abandon its nuclear ambitions if its "economic but also its legitimate security interests are safeguarded."

The security conference continues through tomorrow. NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan are also expected to speak.

(compiled from agency reports)