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NATO one part of anti-terror force

By CNN European Political Editor Robin Oakley

LONDON, England (CNN) -- The United States has 18 allies in NATO which responded to the terrorist assault on New York and Washington by invoking Article 5 of its constitution.

Activated for the first time in the alliance's history, Article 5 states that an attack on one member constitutes an attack on all of them.

It looked, for a few days at least, as though there would be collective NATO action in response to last week's attack.

Charles Grant, director of the Centre for European Reform, said: "Some governments might say well, yes, let's make it a NATO action because then we have some control, we are allies, we have to be consulted.

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"If it is a NATO action, every single prime minister involved has a little bit of say on what targets are bombed, for example, as (French Prime Minister Jacques) Chirac insisted on having during the Kosovo conflict of a couple of years ago."

While military forces from NATO countries will almost certainly be involved in the coalition gathering behind the U.S. in its declared war on terrorism, it is looking less and less likely that action will be under a NATO banner.

Far more likely, say experts, is another U.S.-led coalition of willing countries, like that assembled in the 1991 Gulf War.

Admiral Richard Cobbold, of the Royal United Services Institution, said: "The main stumbling block for NATO is that the likely places where the action might take place are centered around Afghanistan.

"Now if that is so, then it is a long way outside the NATO area and probably too far outside to be acceptable to a number of countries inside the alliance."

To some that may look like a weakening of resolve. But leading Europeans deny that.

"When we were building a coalition during the Gulf War to repel the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, it went far beyond Europe and far beyond the United States," said Chris Patten, European Union External Affairs commissioner.

"And one thing that in my view is incredibly important for us to do is to make it clear that this isn't part of a clash of civilisations, it is not Europe and America against the rest -- it is the civilised world against those who threaten it with mindless terrorism."

Hence, the shuttle of world leaders -- some European, some not -- to Washington.

What matters in assembling the coalition against terrorism, many leaders are now saying, is not the depth of the alliance but its width.

They want NATO nations in there, but many others too.

• Deaths unavoidable, says NATO chief
September 18, 2001
• NATO to support U.S. retaliation
September 12, 2001
• Chirac pledges support for U.S.
September 19, 2001
• Blair: We are all at risk
September 17, 2001
• Powell: U.S.-led coalition 'coming together'
September 17, 2001


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