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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 October, 2004, 16:08 GMT 17:08 UK
Nato trumpets new reaction force
By Nick Thorpe
BBC News, Poiana Brasov, Romania

A British paratrooper in Kosovo
The force is meant to be sent to crisis situations
Nato has announced that a new rapid reaction force is ready to be deployed in crisis situations.

The declaration came at a meeting of Nato defence ministers at the Romanian ski resort of Poiana Brasov.

Gen James Jones, Nato's supreme military commander, described the force, which is 17,000 strong, as the motor for Nato's transformation.

The alliance's Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer also gave an upbeat assessment of the new force.

He described it as a technically advanced body which can be deployed rapidly to address a variety of situations in the early stages of a crisis, or to support national authorities in times of natural disasters.


Some battalions have already been used - to help security at the Olympic Games this summer in Greece, and at the Afghan elections last weekend.

He admitted, however, that it was still subject to the political will of all 26 Nato member countries, some of which need to consult their parliaments before approval can be given.

One point of division which has emerged at the meeting is over a US proposal to merge US and Nato-led forces in Afghanistan.

The German defence minister said that the reconstruction work of Nato countries like Germany, which has 2,500 soldiers in Afghanistan, should be kept separate from the anti-terrorism activities of US forces.

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