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Saturday, April 24, 1999 Published at 23:59 GMT 00:59 UK


Nato: 'Leaner and meaner'

Kosovo has dominated the agenda at the Nato gathering

A new strategic concept to take Nato into the 21st Century has been agreed by alliance leaders at the 50th anniversary summit in Washington.

Commemoration not celebration
Rude awakening for new members
Alliance's Cold War roots
Fast facts:
Nato: Who, what, why
The crisis in Kosovo inevitably overshadowed the agenda for the second day of the meeting, but the 19 allied leaders were still able to set out a new blueprint for the organisation.

The first update to its mission statement since the end of the Cold War in 1991 gives Nato a broader role than just defending its own borders.

BBC Political Correspondent Jon Sopel assesses the significance of the blueprint
It allows for intervention beyond its territory to halt regional crises and to meet other threats to its members' security.

The initiative also aims to make Nato forces more mobile and increase the accuracy of their weapons systems.

BBC Political Correspondent Jon Sopel says Nato is seeking to become a leaner and meaner fighting force, moving away from its original conception as a defensive organisation.

US President Bill Clinton said the alliance could now "advance security and freedom for another 50 years".

He said the new role would include:

  • Enhancing Nato's capacity to address conflicts beyond its borders
  • Protecting its citizens from terrorism and weapons of mass destruction
  • Deepening its partnerships with other nations
  • Helping new members enter through "Nato's open doors"

Security guarantee

[ image: Protests in Washington]
Protests in Washington
Nato Secretary-General Javier Solana said a stronger alliance had been created, which would guarantee security in Europe and uphold democratic values.

He welcomed the membership of Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic, saying enlargement of the alliance remained a priority.

"Nato is committed to keep its door open. The three new members which have celebrated here will not be the last," he said.

French praise

The Nato agreement also stressed the "primary responsibility" of the United Nations Security Council for world peace, without giving it an explicit veto on Nato action.

Javier Solana: A new road map to help navigate through the next half-century
French President Jacques Chirac hailed this, saying it meant "Nato cannot and will not be able to act without the authorisation of this international organisation".

After overcoming Turkish objections, leaders also approved a statement recognising the European Union's role in security and defence policy and its right to approve military action where the alliance as a whole was not engaged.

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