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Thursday, 13 September, 2001, 00:53 GMT 01:53 UK
Nato rallies to US
Nato Secretary-General George Robertson
An attack on the US is an attack on Nato
In an unprecedented move, Nato has declared that Tuesday's attack on the United States can be considered an attack on the entire 19-nation alliance.

Nato Secretary General George Robertson said this meant that the United States had support from its Nato partners for military action if it was determined that the attacks were directed from abroad.

The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them... will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area

Article Five
April 1949

"An attack on one is an attack on all," said Lord Robertson in Brussels, where Nato ambassadors decided for the first time in Nato's 52-year history to invoke Article Five - the North Atlantic Treaty's mutual defence clause.

Article Five was signed in April 1949 to confront the threat of what was then the Soviet Union. It commits Nato to assist any member who comes under attack.

It is now being applied in the wake of a very different scenario - a massive terrorist attack.

Huge symbolism

The BBC's defence correspondent, Jonathan Marcus, says Nato's resolution is of huge symbolic importance, designed to show that Washington's European allies share the sense of the gravity of the situation.

He says given the secretive nature of counter-terrorist operations, Washington may well want to act alone.

But allied support could involve measures such as opening airspace or bases to US forces.

Our correspondent says Nato is in the process of slowly adapting itself to new challenges, among them the threat of global terrorism.

But, he says, events have forced the pace, as this dramatic decision by Nato indicates.

The Nato ambassadors earlier agreed to make available the Nato rescue and disaster relief unit, known as EADRCC, to coordinate emergency assistance to US authorities.

The BBC's Angus Roxburgh
"EU foreign ministers held a crisis meeting"
The BBC's Andrew Marr
"Popular sympathy also spread far beyond America's normal allies"
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