Nato foreign ministers are trying to put Iraq war divisions behind them at a summit in Madrid, focusing on the alliance's role in fighting international terrorism.
Fresh challenges for Nato secretary-general Lord Robertson
The two-day meeting, opened on Tuesday by Secretary-General Lord Robertson, is reviewing plans for Nato to take charge of peacekeeping in Afghanistan, and will offer backup to Polish peacekeepers in Iraq.
Officials say they see both missions as signs the alliance is making good on pledges to move beyond its frontiers to confront worldwide security threats.
Nato combines flexibility and effectiveness like no other organisation
"Once again, Nato is called upon to change and to face new
challenges," said Lord Robertson in his opening speech.
"These new tasks reinforce an enduring
truth: Nato combines flexibility and effectiveness like no other organisation."
On the eve of the meeting, 19 allied governments cleared plans drawn up by Nato military headquarters to help Poland put together a multinational force of 7,000 - due to be deployed in central Iraq by August.
Nato will also provide intelligence, communications, transport and other logistical help in its first direct involvement in Iraq since the war which caused deep divisions within the alliance.
That follows a decision for Nato to take command of the 5,000-strong international force in Kabul beginning in August - the alliance's first operation outside Europe or North America.
Nato officials say those missions show the continued relevance of an alliance set up to fight the Cold War, now that the Soviet Union is long gone and threats come from terrorism, failed states and weapons of mass destruction.
Ministers will also point to the ease with which the decisions on Iraq and Afghanistan were made as showing how the alliance has recovered from the divisions over the Iraq war.
The conflict split Nato in February when France and Germany led opposition to the US and British attack on Iraq.