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09 June 2005

NATO Moving Beyond Its Historic Role, Rumsfeld Says

Organization will provide logistical support to African Union

Washington -- U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld says NATO is breaking out of its historic role, providing assistance in Afghanistan, Iraq and now Sudan.

"Nearly 60 years ago, after the devastation and turmoil of the Second World War, this alliance was first formed to defend against the threat of tyranny," he said at a news conference in Brussels, Belgium, June 9.  But now, the alliance is working "in ways that it never has before," he said.

"NATO's recent successes are due to contributions and wisdom and determination of the member states, particularly those countries that have only recently gained membership, as well as the many Partnership for Peace countries that are increasingly providing valuable contributions to the alliance as well as new energy and perspective," he said.

Accepting out-of-region missions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Sudan illustrates the changing nature of the security alliance's role in global security, he said.

NATO leads the International Security Force in Afghanistan, is helping train Iraqi security forces, and will provide logistical support to African Union (AU) peacekeeping forces in the Darfur region of Sudan, he said.

Rumsfeld and other NATO defense ministers worked to complete plans for the alliance's first mission in Africa, providing airlift support to AU peacekeepers moving into Darfur.  The mission involves airlifting troops from African Union nations into the region.

The AU asked NATO to help it increase the number of troops in Darfur from approximately 2,700 to more than 7,000.  The United States will assist with the airlift.

Rumsfeld said NATO continues to seek ways to improve its operations and the United States fully supports NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer's efforts to reform the alliance's headquarters.

"We look forward to reviewing the reform proposals later this year," he said.

A transcript of the secretary’s remarks is available on the Defense Department Web site.