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NATO: U.S. Makes No Request For Assistance

Brussels, 26 September 2001 (RFE/RL) -- A NATO official says U.S. representatives at an extraordinary meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels today did not ask NATO allies for specific assistance.

The official, who asked not to be named, said Deputy U.S. Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz briefed NATO ministers on the "general direction" of the U.S. effort to build a global anti-terrorist coalition and bring to justice the persons behind the 11 September attacks in New York and Washington.

But the official said Wolfowitz did not present any conclusive information of who the U.S. thinks is behind the attacks.

Wolfowitz was widely expected to present some of the information the U.S. has collected linking Saudi-born Islamic militant Osama bin Laden to the terrorist attacks. He was also expected to bring a list of requests for assistance from its allies.

The official said NATO ministers therefore will not drop the "if" in their 16 September resolution that invokes the obligation of mutual defense under Article Five of the alliance's founding Washington Treaty provided the U.S. demonstrates that the attacks were carried out by forces based abroad.

The official said, however, the invocation of Article Five remained an "appropriate signal" indicating the continued possibility of a collective response.

The official said the U.S.'s 18 NATO allies today once again expressed their unanimous solidarity with the United States.

The official said the United States indicated it would broaden attempts at building a global coalition against terrorism to involve international organizations as well as countries.

The unnamed official said the absence of concrete requests for assistance from Washington indicated the United States was not seeking to build another Desert Storm-type coalition, as it did before the Gulf War in 1991. He said building "multiple coalitions" would take longer but eventually there would come a time when the United States would be "called on to make real" the various offers of help they've made so far.

NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson told ministers in a statement earlier that a new form of "deterrence" should be developed. He said countries that harbor terrorists should be made to understand that the price for that is too high to bear.

NATO defense ministers also discussed a Dutch proposal to equip NATO with a special counter-terrorist task force and deliberated on the threat presented by weapons of mass destruction. The NATO official said the threat was considered "real" and that a special NATO center would study ways of countering it.