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Powell presses NATO on Iraq

Powell arrives at NATO headquarters with an Iraq request
Powell arrives at NATO headquarters with an Iraq request

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BRUSSELS, Belgium -- U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell says the NATO alliance is discussing doing more to share the United States' military burden in Iraq.

Powell said after meeting NATO foreign ministers in Brussels: "What strikes me today is that as we discussed about the possibility of NATO taking an enhanced role in Iraq, not a single member spoke against it or talked about reasons not to do it."

Even France and Germany, which opposed the Iraq war, had not opposed greater NATO involvement, he said.

"There may come at time when another U.N. resolution might be appropriate but we see no need for one now," Powell told a news conference.

The military alliance already provides low-key support in the country.

Thursday's request is the first time since the U.S.-led war that Washington has pressed the 19-nation alliance for help in Iraq.

Eighteen of the 26 current and future members of NATO already have a military presence in Iraq, providing behind-the-scenes support to a 23-nation division of troops led by Poland.

Earlier this year, the U.S. and NATO clashed over plans to use Turkey in defense planning for the Iraq war.

France, Germany and Belgium had opposed U.S. wishes to deploy AWACS airplanes and theater missile defenses on Turkish soil on the eve of the battle.

Washington had also wanted support for allied chemical and biological defense capabilities. After lengthy and tense discussions, Germany and Belgium agreed to the move, allowing it to go through.

Powell also strengthened U.S. opposition to European Union plans for its own defense force, saying: "The United States cannot accept independent EU structures that duplicate existing NATO capabilities."

EU members forsee a defense wing with a permanent EU military planning and command cell based at NATO's military headquarters near the southern Belgian city of Mons.

But Washington has been highly critical of the plans saying it risked undermining NATO unity and would waste scarce resources by duplicating existing alliance facilities.

Britain, and some other EU nations, have echoed the American criticism, but UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has worked closely with France and Germany to find a compromise.

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