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NATO Summit Focus Now Kosovo and Work, Not Celebration

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 21, 1999 – NATO's 50th anniversary summit here was meant to celebrate the past and look toward the future. In light of the ongoing crisis in Kosovo, however, the three-day summit starting April 23 has changed its focus to the here and now.

"This is going to be a working meeting of a military alliance in the middle of a conflict," National Security Adviser Sandy Berger said at the White House. Berger, along with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Defense Secretary William Cohen gave an overview of the summit at an April 20 press briefing.

Leaders of NATO's 19 member nations are slated to focus on Kosovo during a morning meeting April 23, Berger said. The heads of state will reaffirm NATO's determination to force Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to pull his forces from Kosovo and allow an international force to assure the safe return of Kosovar refugees. The allies intend to warn Belgrade that economic and political pressure will intensify until these goals are met.

The meeting will also affirm NATO's commitment to "both an immediate and long-term effort" to help southeastern Europe deal with the humanitarian crisis and help rebuild the region once stability is restored, Berger said.

NATO's overall objective, Albright said, is to "transform the Balkans from Europe's primary source of instability into an important part of its mainstream. Our alliance consensus is rock-solid, and NATO operations will continue until this crisis ends on just and durable terms."

During the upcoming summit talks, she continued, NATO allies will consider "new economic measures designed to deny Belgrade the ability to wage war on its own people, such as an embargo on oil products."

While the summit's focus has changed, its goals have not, according to the three senior administration leaders. Members are expected to agree to a new strategic concept that reaffirms NATO's core mission of collective defense and, at the same time, recognizes the need to deal with regional conflicts, proliferation and terrorism.

Kosovo, Berger said, should remind members that NATO needs modern military forces to respond quickly to crises and demonstrate why America should encourage its European allies to strengthen their capabilities and NATO responsibilities.

Along with discussing Kosovo, Cohen said the alliance would talk about weapons of mass destruction and terrorism "in all of its manifestly evil forms -- cyberterrorism, chemical, biological and nuclear." Terrorism is "destined to present as serious a challenge to the West as anything we faced during the Cold War," he said.

NATO authorities will also present a defense capabilities initiative during the summit, Cohen pointed out. "NATO must prepare for the future by developing systems that affect the mobility, flexibility and survivability of our forces," he said.

The anniversary summit will be the largest gathering of world leaders in Washington's history. Following the leaders' meeting Friday morning, a public ceremony will commemorate NATO's 50th anniversary and welcome three new allies, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland. The summit will reaffirm the door to membership remains open and will announce a practical plan to help potential new members meet NATO standards, Albright noted.

During the commemorative ceremony at the Mellon Auditorium, allied leaders will sign the Washington Declaration, a statement of NATO's purpose and vision for the 21st century. NATO's 12 original members convened at the Mellon to sign the Treaty of Washington, which created the Euro-Atlantic security alliance in April 1949.

The original 12 were Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom and the United States. Greece and Turkey joined the alliance in 1952, followed by Germany in 1955 and Spain in 1982. NATO accepted Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic in March.

The alliance's governing body, the North Atlantic Council, will meet April 24, as will the NATO Ukraine Commission. That evening, President Clinton will host a dinner for the leaders of the NATO's 44 member and Partnership for Peace countries. The Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, comprising members and partners, will meet the morning of April 25 before the summit concludes later in the day.

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