Secretary of State Colin Powell has called on NATO to take on a greater role
in Iraq to help stabilize the country. But Mr. Powell acknowledged that the alliance
has more pressing matters at hand, such as expanding its peacekeeping operation
Mr. Powell called on NATO to play a more prominent role in bringing peace
and stability to Iraq after a war there that deeply divided the 19-member Atlantic
He made his pitch in a speech at the beginning of a two-day NATO foreign
ministers' meeting in Brussels, which also discussed the alliance's role in
Afghanistan and a controversial European Union plan to run its own military
operations independent of NATO.
Mr. Powell later told reporters that he had received a positive response
to his suggestion that NATO consider playing a wider role in stabilizing Iraq,
where U.S. costs and casualties are mounting.
"Not a single member spoke against it or talked about reasons not to do it," he
said. "The question really was should we not, in the interim, in the immediate
near-term, focus on Afghanistan and think about what we might be able to do
in Iraq in the coming months and sometime, perhaps, next year."
Mr. Powell said that neither France nor Germany - strong opponents of the
Iraq war - had thrown cold water on his proposal. But diplomats at NATO headquarters
say both countries insist that they will not vote for an enhanced NATO presence
in Iraq unless the alliance operates independently from the U.S.-installed
occupying authority now running the country.
NATO's role in Iraq at present is limited to giving logistical support to
a Polish-led multinational division operating in south-central Iraq. But Poland,
Spain and Italy have suggested that NATO could take over that unit by next
Mr. Powell also signaled that he would eventually like to see NATO taking
over all military operations in Afghanistan. NATO's peacekeeping mission there
is separate from a U.S.-led force that is still hunting for remnants of al-Qaida
and the former Taleban regime.
NATO Secretary-General George Robertson announced that the alliance had succeeded
in filling key gaps in equipment needed to enable its peacekeeping force to
expand its operations outside of Kabul and into the hinterland. But he is continuing
to put pressure on the allies to supply more personnel.
Mr. Robertson also played down concerns within NATO that the EU's still unfinished
plan to create its own defense wing would result in competition with NATO and
thus undermine the alliance.
"I'm confident that the end result will avoid any unnecessary duplication
and will strengthen both NATO and the EU," he said. "I am confident in that
way because any other outcome would be senseless for both organizations and
for their member states."
Mr. Powell, too, said Washington would not accept independent EU military
structures that duplicate NATO capabilities.
The secretary of state confirmed that he will meet on Friday with the authors
of a private Middle East peace plan known as the Geneva Accord, despite Israeli