NATO Summit Kicks Off With Emphasis on Missile Defense
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JUDY WOODRUFF: The NATO summit opened today, with plans to focus heavily on Afghanistan. But it was instead missiles that topped the first day’s agenda: an agreement announced for an expanded missile defense system for Europe and the U.S.
The announcement came shortly after President Obama and the leaders of 27 other NATO nations gathered in Lisbon for the two-day meeting.
U.S PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We’ve agreed to develop missile defense capability that is strong enough to cover all NATO European territory and populations, as well as the United States. This important step forward builds on the new phased adaptive approach to missile defense that I announced for the United States last year.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The missile system, designed to defend against an attack from Iran, will involve stationing U.S. interceptor missiles and radar in Europe. NATO will spend $280 million to link the new system to existing anti-missile sites. The leaders plan to invite Russia to join the missile defense plan tomorrow as part of resetting NATO relations with Moscow.
Meanwhile, the centerpiece of the U.S. reset, a nuclear arms reduction treaty, has hit a Republican roadblock in the Senate. But it’s the escalating war in Afghanistan that’s expected to dominate tomorrow’s meeting. Members planned to consider how, and how fast, to let the Afghans take over.
BARACK OBAMA: Here in Lisbon, I look forward to working with our NATO and our ISAF partners as we move towards a new phase, a transition to Afghan responsibility that begins in 2011, with Afghan forces taking the lead for security across Afghanistan by 2014.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The American commitment was reinforced by reports today that heavily armored M-1 Abrams battle tanks are being sent to Afghanistan for the first time.
But Afghan President Hamid Karzai may have complicated the task of getting the allies to stay through the transition. In an interview with The Washington Post last weekend, he pushed for reducing the international troop presence and stopping night raids.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Karzai today on the sidelines of the Lisbon summit to talk things over.
U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON: We believe that it is important for us to listen closely to the government and people of Afghanistan about their concerns and to try to address them. And we also believe that our mission in Afghanistan is making progress, which President Karzai has publicly acknowledged.