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NATO chief: 'We certainly will win' war on terrorism

Bush Robertson
President Bush, flanked by NATO Secretary-General George Robertson, speaks Wednesday in Washington.  

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- NATO Secretary-General George Robertson pledged the alliance's steadfast support at the heart of what he called a "global coalition against the most evil criminals of our age" during an appearance Wednesday with President Bush at the White House.

"We stand shoulder to shoulder in a new kind of struggle and a struggle that we have to win," Robertson said, standing next to Bush in the Rose Garden.

"These terrorists are not 10 feet tall. They are not insuperable. They are not unvanquishable, but we are. We can win, and we certainly will win," he said.

The meeting between Robertson and Bush comes as NATO is taking on a more visible role in support of the U.S. war against terrorism. The 19-nation alliance, of which the United States is a member, already has deployed a naval force to the eastern Mediterranean Sea and sent surveillance and early warning aircraft to patrol the skies over the United States.

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The naval force is part of NATO's immediate response forces and includes ships from Britain, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Turkey and the United States.

The deployment to the United States, which is expected to be completed within days, is the first time NATO forces have been used directly to support the continental United States. The NATO planes will free up U.S. aircraft to support operations in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

The first of five NATO Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft headed Tuesday for the United States.

Bush called the deployment an "unprecedented display of friendship."

"This has never happened before, that NATO has come to help defend our country, but it happened in this time of need and for that we are grateful," Bush said. "Together, we're building a very strong coalition against terror, and NATO is the cornerstone of that coalition."

The president emphasized that support for the U.S.-led attacks on Taliban and al Qaeda targets in Afghanistan spreads far beyond NATO's member nations.

Forces from Britain, also a NATO member, took part in the initial round of attacks on targets in Afghanistan on Sunday.

Bush noted that Russia is sharing intelligence and offering "strong diplomatic support," the Organization of American States invoked its own collective defense clause, and Japan and South Korea have offered logistical and other support. And forces from Australia and New Zealand, he said, are on standby if needed. Nations in Africa also have pledged various kinds of support.

He said that China's President Jiang Zemin expressed "his desire to join us in fighting terrorist activities."

And perhaps to counter efforts by al Qaeda and the Taliban to paint fighting as an attack by the United States on Islam, Bush noted that there has been support from the Middle East. In particular, he cited Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia as offering law enforcement, intelligence and other cooperation.

"In short, many nations understand what NATO expressed -- that an attack on us is really an attack on legitimate governments and on freedom," Bush said.

This week's deployment is the most visible signal of NATO's first ever implementation of Article 5 of the 1949 Washington Treaty, which recognizes that an attack against one member should be considered an attack against all, Robertson said Wednesday.

NATO's 19 members also are providing access to European allied airspace, airports and airfields, and intelligence. And they will continue to build on cooperation with the United Nations in providing peacekeepers.


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