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NATO: Alliance Invokes 'Article 5'

Brussels, 2 October 2001 (RFE/RL) -- For the first time in its history, NATO fully invoked Article 5 of its founding treaty today, proclaiming that the recent terrorist attacks against the United States were an attack against the entire alliance.

The decision was made this morning in Brussels after NATO's highest decision-making structure, the North Atlantic Council, was briefed on the results of the U.S. investigations into the attacks.

NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson said after the meeting that it was now clear that the attackers came from outside the United States.

"On the basis of this briefing, it has now been determined that the attack against the United States of America on the 11th of September was directed from abroad and shall therefore be regarded as an action covered by Article 5 of the Washington treaty, which states that an armed attack on one or more of the allies in Europe or North America shall be considered as an attack against them all."

The day after the attacks, the North Atlantic Council adopted a declaration saying that Article 5 -- representing NATO's mutual defense obligation -- could be invoked if the United States produced evidence that the attacks originated from abroad.

Robertson said that the briefing by Ambassador Frank Taylor, the U.S. State Department coordinator on terrorism, had shown conclusively that "all roads lead to" Osama bin Laden and his terrorist network, Al-Qaeda.

"The facts are clear and compelling. The information presented points conclusively to an Al-Qaeda role in the September 11th attacks. We know that the individuals who carried out these attacks were part of the world-wide terrorist network Al-Qaeda, headed by Osama bin Laden and his key lieutenants and protected by the Taliban."

Robertson said that as most of the proof comes from sensitive intelligence sources it cannot be made public at this stage.

NATO's decision this morning will enable the United States to formally ask its allies for assistance in any military operations it plans to launch against the alleged organizers of the attacks. Robertson said consultations were under way among NATO allies on how best to assist the United States.

So far, however, the United States has made no request for NATO assistance and NATO operational planning facilities remain on standby.

Robertson said NATO ambassadors would, in their turn, brief representatives from the 27 NATO partner countries at a Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council meeting later this afternoon.