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NATO: Ministers Announce SFOR Reduction, Mull U.S. Missile Plans

Brussels, 7 June 2001 (RFE/RL) -- NATO defense ministers met today in Brussels to discuss issues including U.S. missile defense plans and the situation in the Western Balkans. After the meeting, NATO's Secretary-General Lord George Robertson said NATO ministers had agreed to a "small reduction" in peacekeeping forces in Bosnia. But Robertson said the cuts would not affect KFOR troops in Kosovo:

"Ministers also approved the six-month reviews for the Stabilization Force in Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Kosovo Force in Kosovo. They concluded that while a small reduction in troop levels in SFOR may be possible, no change will be made in the size and the structure of KFOR."

During the meeting, U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld also briefed his NATO colleagues on U.S. missile defense plans.

Robertson said Rumsfeld's presentation on dangers of proliferation of nuclear and chemical weapons had been "thought-provoking". He also said Rumsfeld had reiterated the U.S. commitment to consulting its European allies on U.S. thinking on the issue.

But some NATO defense ministers expressed skepticism over the U.S. plans. French Defense Minister Alain Richard said security threats could also be solved by "political dialogue".

And German Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping said the U.S. missile plans were "sketchy".

The United States also announced it is testing new technologies and assets as part of a new strategy of "layered defense."

U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said the layered defense strategy focuses on the ability to intercept even small numbers of ballistic missiles "of various ranges in various phases of flight."

He said a layered defense will also create a protective shield against both nuclear weapons and such new threats as cyberwarfare and terrorism.

Rumsfeld said the allies will be consulted on U.S. plans but Washington will not be deterred from its determination to test and deploy the new defenses.

Rumsfeld said the U.S. remains committed to helping maintain European security and arms control, but he also said the new defense system will go beyond the limitations imposed by the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

For more on the NATO ministers' meeting, please see NATO: Ministers Discuss Missile Defense, Western Balkans.