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NATO Rift Continues Ahead of Security Council Meeting

The three allies have denied the U.S.-backed demand for four weeks. The demand would require that NATO send Airborne Warning and Control System surveillance planes, biochemical units and Patriot missiles to Turkey?s aid. The three countries believe such a step is premature, and that planning for war will undermine U.N. attempts to broker a peaceful resolution to the Iraq crisis.

NATO cancelled meetings Thursday that were to include ambassadors from all 19 of the alliance?s member nations. The emergency meeting was to have been the sixth such session in four days of failed negotiation over how to proceed. Crisis talks began Monday after Turkey requested defense from fellow NATO members.

Yves Brodeur, a NATO spokesman, said it has become evident “that we wouldn’t be able to make progress in a formal setting.”

France, Germany and Belgium have consistently said they will not agree to action until after the U.N. Security Council meets Friday to hear weapons inspectors present their latest assessment of Iraq?s cooperation.

German Defense Minister Peter Struck suggested his country might be willing to heal its relationship with Washington. He said Thursday that action in NATO’s policy-making body would follow Friday?s meeting.

“Germany’s position is completely clear,” Struck said. “We will have a decision in the North Atlantic Council at the latest Saturday, following the discussions in the U.N. Security Council Friday, which will absolutely satisfy Turkey’s interests.”

NATO officials reacted with caution to Struck’s comments. They said no meeting had yet been scheduled for Saturday and repeated the view of the United States and 15 other allies, including Canada, that planning to help Turkey should start as soon as possible.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said in Berlin that his country?s solidarity with Turkey and the NATO alliance is ?beyond question.” He went on to say that “together with our French and Belgian friends, we consider it inappropriate to have a formal NATO decision on the start of planning for a war before the discussions of the Security Council.”

Turkey is the only NATO member nation that shares a border with Iraq, and is likely to become the entryway to a northern front in the case of war with Iraq.

The rift within NATO casts doubt on the United States? ability to win United Nations support for a war on Iraq. Secretary of State Colin Powell said Tuesday the discord within NATO was being caused by the countries themselves.

“The alliance is breaking itself up because it will not meet its responsibilities,” Powell told the Senate Budget Committee.

Powell said the U.S. is engaged in diplomatic efforts to change the actions of the three countries. He said the U.S. and other NATO members would assist Turkey regardless of whether there is a formal agreement.

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