U.S. selects six Mideast nations for NATO program

Monday, February 2, 2004

The United States has been lobbying allies to include Middle East countries in a key NATO program.

U.S. officials said the Bush administration has approved a proposal for the inclusion of up to six Middle East states in the Partnership for Peace program. Created in 1994, PfP has been used to increase NATO's ties to non-Western allies and bring them into the alliance.

Under the proposal, the United States intends to include the following Middle East states in PfP: Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia. The proposal, approved by Turkey, will be submitted to the NATO summit in Istanbul in June 2004.

PfP has been joined by 30 countries, three of whom have since become members of the alliance. NATO has tried to help PfP members improve transparency in defense planning and budgeting, bolster democratic control of their militaries and equip and train these countries to serve NATO interests.

Officials said the Middle East states would not have all of the privileges afforded to states under the PfP program. Instead, the United States has proposed a modified version of the PfP that takes into account the lack of democracy and civil rights in some of the Arab League states.

But PfP would establish formal military training programs with countries throughout the Middle East.

"The strategic focus of NATO's efforts in the first half of the 21st Century will be the Greater Middle East, Iraq, Afghanistan, the Mediterranean, and the Israeli-Palestinian issue," Sen. Chuck Hagel, the U.S. representative to NATO's 2004 Security Seminar in Brussels, said on Jan. 23. "NATO should expand and deepen its partnership with the countries of the Mediterranean."

So far, NATO has held a dialogue with six Middle East states that has avoided classified issues. The dialogue has been deemed as largely unsuccessful as discussions have often pitted Arab states against Israel on such issues as Israel's purported nuclear weapons arsenal and the Israeli-Palestinian war.

The United States has proposed that Middle East states expand their naval cooperation with NATO. Officials said NATO could increase regional naval missions in an effort to halt Islamic insurgency operations, the trafficking of illegal drugs and laborers as well as the capture of weapons of mass destruction shipments.

Officials said North African states such as Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia want to expand security cooperation with the United States and NATO. They said this could include intelligence gathering on Islamic insurgency groups that also threaten Europe.

In his address to the seminar, Hagel also called for a NATO role to achieve an Israeli-Palestinian settlement. He said a NATO peace-keeping mission might be recruited to ensure that a future Palestinian state would not become an enemy of Israel or the West.

"The day may come when NATO troops monitor the birth of a Palestinian state," Hagel said. "NATO is the only institution with the credibility and capability to undertake such a critical mission. The time is not yet right for this development, but I believe we must begin to move our thinking, policies, and planning in that direction."

Print this Article Print this Article Email this article Email this article Subscribe to this Feature Free Headline Alerts
Search Worldwide Web Search Search WorldTrib Archives

See current edition of

Return to World Front Cover