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Sunday, 9 February, 2003, 22:26 GMT
Belgium to block US Nato request
Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel
Michel says Belgium's position is settled
Belgium says it will block an American request for Nato to start preparing a deployment of forces designed to protect Turkey in the event of a US-led war with Iraq.

Members states have until Monday to state formal objections to the US appeal.

France has also indicated it will oppose the request and wield its veto, despite pressure from the US

The rift between Washington and what US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld termed "old Europe" threatens to do lasting damage to NATO solidarity, according to the BBC's Stephen Sackur in Brussels.

'Inexcusable'

"We are going to block it between now and Monday - it is settled," Belgium's Foreign Minister Louis Michel said.

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld
Rumsfeld's "old Europe" remarks have offended many US allies
"When one has to take a slap in the face such as the insulting remarks... by Mr Rumsfeld, who comes to teach a thing or two to 'old Europe', the Europe of democratic values, humanist Europe, the Europe of the Age of Enlightenment, personally I find that this hurts."

Officials in Paris have repeatedly warned that a Nato deployment at this time would send the wrong signal - namely that war was inevitable.

But Turkey is nervous about possible Iraqi counterattacks on its southern flank.

Nato's article IV says: "Parties will consult together whenever, in the opinion of any of them, the territorial integrity, political independence of security of any of the parties is threatened."

Open in new window : Who backs war?
Where key nations stand on Iraq

The stage is set for a furious behind-the-scenes row at Nato headquarters, our correspondent says.

On Sunday, US Secretary of State Colin Powell said he found the moves to block his government's request "inexcusable".

"I hope they will think differently by the time that they have to make a judgment tomorrow."


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09 Feb 03 | Europe
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