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The BBC's Richard Lister
"At this first meeting...they focused on creating a united front on the Balkans"
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Colin Powell, US Secretary of State
"This alliance has succeeded in maintaining strategic stability through many difficult and trying decades"
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Tuesday, 27 February, 2001, 14:09 GMT
Powell outlines Nato vision
Lord Robertson and Colin Powell meet other Nato ministers, Brussels 27 Feb 2001
Nato ministers turned out to meet Mr Powell
US Secretary of State Colin Powell has reassured European allies by underlining American commitment to the Balkans.

At the same time, he confirmed Washington's intentions to build a national missile defence shield, in the face of wide European objections.

Mr Powell was speaking in Brussels on Tuesday after his first meeting with Nato allies as secretary of state.

Powell meetings
North Atlantic Council meeting
Tri-lateral with UK and France
Bilaterals with Greece and Turkey
Nato chief Lord Robertson
European Commission
In comments that will be a relief to Europeans concerned about US commitment to peacekeeping in the Balkans, Mr Powell said: "The simple proposition is, we went in together. We will come out together."

He also underscored the Bush administration's determination to deploy a national missile defence system (NMD), despite criticism from some of the Washington's closest allies.

'Our responsibility'

"We believe it is our responsibility to create a missile defence that protects the United States, our allies and friends," he said.

And though he promised that the US would consult its allies about the "specific technologies and architecture" of NMD, he did not suggest any other country could talk the US out of the basic idea.

Anti-missile missile
Many Europeans oppose US missile defence plans
European capitals are by no means enthusiastic about the Bush administration's commitment to NMD.

Mr Powell arrived in Brussels after a whirlwind trip through the Middle East, where he says he received solid support from Arab leaders for revising sanctions against Iraq to lessen their impact on the civilian people and target the Iraqi regime.

Mr Powell is discussing Iraq sanctions in a three-way meeting with the UK and French foreign ministers in Brussels.

The UK has been broadly supportive of the sanctions regime, while the French are increasingly critical.

There will also be separate talks with the Turkish and Greek foreign ministers and with Nato Secretary-General Lord Robertson.

Building relationships

BBC Defence correspondent Jonathan Marcus says it is important for Mr Powell to build bilateral relationships with his European counterparts in Nato at a time when trans-Atlantic relations are in a state of flux.

The US fears that the EU's plans for a 60,000-strong rapid reaction military force will compromise Nato.

French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine meets Colin Powell
The French do not support the current sanctions on Iraq
But Mr Powell said the US both welcomes and supports the creation of a European defence identity.

After his Nato appointments, Mr Powell will cross the Belgian capital for talks with European Commission President Romano Prodi and the EU Commissioner for External Affairs, Chris Patten.

Our correspondent says there could be bumpy times ahead for Nato, so it is important that Mr Powell is able to show that the US is willing to listen as well as to lead.

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See also:

22 Feb 01 | Middle East
Analysis: A tougher line?
27 Feb 01 | Europe
Nato to reduce Kosovo buffer zone
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