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NATO: France Left Out Of Decision As Deadlock Is Broken

Brussels, 16 February 2003 (RFE/RL) -- NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson said the alliance broke a deadlock over military planning to defend Turkey in the event of an attack against Iraq today after negotiations in a committee in which France, which blocked the move, has no seat. Robertson said he was pleased to announce the agreement, which was announced 13 hours after ambassadors started meeting in the morning.

Belgium and Germany had held out for a month with France, arguing that it was premature for NATO to take steps that could imply acceptance of military action while UN weapons inspectors were still trying to disarm Iraq peacefully. The other 16 members of the alliance supported the move.

But Germany and Belgium eventually agreed at the meeting today to start planning for the protection of their NATO ally Turkey -- a likely launchpad for any strike -- after Robertson took the issue to the alliance's Defense Planning Committee.

France is not included on the committee because it withdrew from the integrated military structure of the alliance in 1966. The forum was used to get around French objections during the 1991 Gulf War when NATO sent its Allied Command Europe Mobile Force to southeastern Turkey.