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U.S.-Romanian Basing Agreement Helps Both Countries, Rumsfeld Says

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 6, 2005 – Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld praised an agreement signed today by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that will allow U.S. troops to establish temporary bases for training in Romania.

"It's a good thing for Romania. It's a good thing for the United States," Rumsfeld said during a news conference at the annual Southeastern Europe Defense Ministerial, held here Dec. 5 and today.

Rumsfeld cautioned that any U.S. military bases in Romania should be considered as rudimentary forward operating sites, rather than the large, permanent bases developed for American troops in Germany during the Cold War. In the 21st century, most U.S. forces will be based in the United States, Rumsfeld said. Those forces need to be flexible and rapidly deployable to confront transnational threats like terrorism and can't be tied down on large overseas installations, he said.

Romanian Defense Minister Teodor Atanasiu said his nation's military would benefit and learn much by training alongside American troops.

Rumsfeld also saluted the group's accomplishments during this conference, the first one the nine-year-old organization has held in the United States. "We had excellent discussions on the progress and the future of cooperation of southeastern Europe," Rumsfeld said, noting SEDM has come a long way since its inception in 1996.

Ukraine today joined SEDM members Italy, Greece, Turkey, Albania, Bulgaria, Romania, the Macedonia, Slovenia and Croatia.

SEDM members also voted today to deploy the organization's Southeastern Europe Brigade headquarters to Kabul, Afghanistan, for a six-month peacekeeping mission starting in February 2006. "This effort will give the Afghan people some encouragement and confidence as the free people of southeastern Europe reach out to aid a region that is well beyond their borders," Rumsfeld said.

SEDM Chairman Albanian Deputy Defense Minister Besnik Baraj thanked Rumsfeld for hosting the meetings. New SEDM members, like Ukraine, will assist the organization in meeting future security challenges, Baraj said.

The United States helped develop SEDM to promote peace and stability and enhance regional security cooperation in southeastern Europe, DoD officials said. Some SEDM members, Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey, Italy, Romania, Slovenia, as well as the United States, are also NATO members.

Moldova and Ukraine had been SEDM conference observers in years past, officials said. Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia and Montenegro are special guests at this year's meeting. Moldova is attending this year's meeting as an observer.

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