Press conference

by NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer

  • 24 Jun. 2004
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  • Last updated: 04 Nov. 2008 00:19

Jaap de Hoop Scheffer: So not only in the military sense we work with one single set of forces, but this also goes for all the equipment apparently.

Good afternoon to all of you. Let me give you an assessment of where we are today in our preparations for the Summit, having entered the final sprint. Of course, as usual, some important decisions still remain to be taken in Istanbul, but I think the general lines are becoming very clear.

If you would ask the question, which you might do, is this an Enlargement Summit, my answer would be yes, it's an Enlargement Summit in the sense that it's an historic first, having for the first time a Summit with the 26 Allies gathered around the table. So in this respect certainly this historic occasion is going to be celebrated in Istanbul.

But if I look at the backdrop of this Summit, and if I look at the time span between Prague and Istanbul, I think we have some fundamental changes, which lead me to the conclusion that the Summit will not only be a substantial one, but important as well.

Let me tell you what we'll do, what NATO will do. First of all, NATO will strengthen its operations, including in Afghanistan. I hope the Allies will start a fundamental examination of how we generate our forces in a way as we should do that for modern operations.

We will deepen our partnerships and we will also open, for the first time, a dialogue with interested countries from the broader Middle East. And we will have, Heads of State and Government will have a discussion on what kind of support NATO might provide to Iraq.

Let me start with operations, on Afghanistan first, first priority, Afghanistan, as you know. I'm confident that Allies will confirm in Istanbul that we will have the forces to expand NATO's presence in the north, to begin expansion also in the west, and to be able to support the upcoming elections. I expect to deliver that message to President Karzai personally on behalf of the Allies in Istanbul.

I'm not going into detail now, neither now nor with you on precise locations, troop numbers, contributing nations. That information will be formalized and publicized in Istanbul.

You know that the Summit certainly also will likely announce a decision to bring the SFOR mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina to a successful conclusion by the end of the year, to keep a presence in Bosnia-Herzegovina, to carry out some important talks; defence reform, responsibility for the people indicted for war crimes, and to support, of course, the EU follow-on mission, which we'll see in Bosnia-Herzegovina because these arrangements will be done under, as you know, the so-called Berlin Plus formula, which will mean that NATO will keep a presence.

I think Operation Active Endeavour, the operation in the Mediterranean, will get a boost. We have agreed to open up this mission to our important partners, Russia and Ukraine. Of course, we'll discuss the modalities with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at the NATO-Russian Council, with President Kuchma at the NATO-Ukraine Commission.

Of course it's NATO who decides on Operation Active Endeavour, but I think we have an opening.

Let me also mention the Olympics. Yesterday NATO formally agreed to Greece's request for assistance for the Olympics. I'm pleased by this very concrete manifestation of NATO's solidarity. Let me note, of course, that the assistance NATO gives to the Greek government does not mean that NATO is now in charge of security during the Olympics. NATO is, of course, supporting the Greek efforts.

If I turn to partnerships, the second major element of the Summit, I think that the Partnership after the NATO enlargement has entered a new phase. We'll focus on reform and co-operation. Strengthen focus, certainly, on the Caucasus and Central Asia, both partnership regions, important strategic regions.

NATO will appoint representatives to both regions, and a special representative. We'll work out the details of this later, but the decisions have been taken. Why? To be better able to communicate with the countries concerned, provide support for the Partners and I'm pleased that Partners in these regions themselves are already making use of the tailored, individualized partnership programs. That goes for Georgia, that goes for Azerbaijan, that goes for Uzbekistan at the moment.

You know that President Karzai will personally attend and address the EAPC meeting coming Tuesday, and share his views on what is NATO's first priority with the 46 EAPC countries.

We have plenty of issues--I mentioned already one--to discuss with the Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov; to deepen the relationship, including through a bolder dialogue on key security issues. We have, as you know, many forms and examples of practical co-operation. Let me mention military to military projects, interoperability, theatre missile defence, civil emergency planning and so on and so forth.

We have a NATO-Ukraine Commission at the level of Heads of State and Government. President Kuchma, will, as you know, come to Istanbul. I think that Ukraine is making a significant contribution to international security operations, including the Balkans and of course Allies very much welcome that. And we also welcome Ukraine's offer, I mentioned it already, to support Operation Active Endeavour.

You know that Allies support Ukraine's aspirations as far as their quest for coming closer to Euro-Atlantic integration are concerned, but you know that Ukraine, to make that happen, must not only focus on very much on defence reform, but must also demonstrate commitment, more commitments, stronger commitment, to common values, to democracy, to rule of law, to press freedom, to free and fair elections in the later part of this year.

I mean, the values of the Euro-Atlantic community, more specifically the values NATO stands for, and has always stood for, do, of course, also fully apply to Ukraine. And I think that Allies certainly will discuss this.

Why? Because the annual target plan, NATO has agreed with Ukraine, very specifically focuses on and refers to these very important elements, the elements where the values are concerned, democracy, rule of law, I mentioned them.

On the Mediterranean Dialogue and the Istanbul Co-operation Initiative, this is... these are two persons living under the same political roof. I think Heads of State, Government will announce, I'm confident that they will announce two separate, but complementary initiatives aimed at enhancing NATO's outreach to what I call our southern neighbours.

First of all, a reinforced Mediterranean Dialogue. That's the first leg; developing the Mediterranean Dialogue, which exists, as you know, for almost ten years now. At the end of this year it will celebrate its 10th anniversary. To reinforce the Mediterranean Dialogue. At the same time to open a new channel of dialogue and that's called Istanbul Co-operation Initiative, with countries of the broader Middle East region, starting with the Gulf countries.

You might know that my deputy, Ambassador Minuto Rizzo, has been in the Mediterranean region pour une mission de sondage, for consultations. He has also consulted the Gulf countries because this is, of course, never a one-way street, never un sens unique. It is building on a dialogue, which is a two-way street on the basis of what NATO might be able to contribute, but first and foremost of what countries would like, would want of NATO.

And it's up to the countries to decide if they are willing and ready and able to participate. You know perhaps that Egypt is a country which has wondered might this be the moment to do this, but from all the other countries in the Med Dialogue we have got positive signals. We had a meeting last week of the 26 NATO Allies and the seven Mediterranean Dialogue countries. It was a meeting at the ambassador's level and I have confidence that on the basis of that meeting and on the basis of the two documents, Med Dialogue and Istanbul Co-operation Initiative, Heads of State and Government can launch these initiatives.

The third important element: Capabilities, capability improvements. You all know about the Prague Capabilities Commitment. There's a lot of work under way now which I hope will deliver substantial results in Istanbul.

More specifically I would hope that governments in Istanbul reach agreement to approve helpful targets for deployability and usability of forces. NATO-speak for: Do we have the right forces we can tailor to missions, and can we get them where we want them, and can we do so quickly and efficiently?

And second important question: Can we sustain them? Deployability, usability and sustainability.

I hope that Heads of State and Government can endorse changes to NATO's defence planning system by making it more responsive to current and future operational requirements. I hope that they will decide to improve the Force Generation process, including by moving to a longer term and more comprehensive approach. And I'm confident they'll sign a Memorandum of Understanding on strategic airlift and sealift.

I have the intention to put some, perhaps difficult questions in front of NATO Heads of State and Government, to start the profound debate on how we ensure, and I've said this before, that our political commitments are met by the resources to do the job.

NATO will deliver in Afghanistan. I do not belong to, let's say, the people who picked a very gloomy picture. NATO will deliver on its commitments in Afghanistan. But there is a lesson from Afghanistan I have learned over the past half year and that is that we should be able to solve the problem of the disconnect because Force Planning and Force Generation and I hope that Heads of State and Government will, as we call that, give a tasking to start this discussion.

Heads of State and Government will of course also be present. Perhaps not live, but I should mention at least that we have in Istanbul the change of command of the NATO Response Force. The initial operation capability of the CBRN Battalion. Having said that, let me turn to terrorism and then end with Iraq. Because you'll start with Iraq, I'll end with it.

On terrorism, I hope that... I know that Heads of State and Government will be asked to approve an enhanced set of measures against terrorism, which goes from improving intelligence sharing among Allies, further strengthening NATO's ability to respond to national request for assistance in protecting against and dealing with the consequences of terrorist attacks, and a specific passage of eight high tech systems to help defend against terrorism. That goes from preventing explosive devices from functioning as intended, protect aircraft from shoulder-fired missiles, protect helicopters, protect harbours and so on and so forth.

Finally, on Iraq, Iraq will be on the agenda of the informal working lunch the Heads of State and Government will have next Monday. You all know that two days ago I received a letter from interim prime minister designate Allawi in which he asks the Alliance, he asked NATO, to consider providing support for Iraq, like training of the security forces and other forms of technical assistance.

What I've done, of course, is I've forwarded this letter to the 26 NATO governments and they are now considering the request. Of course, as I said, they'll have a profound discussion. I cannot prejudge, of course, at this very moment, what our discussion might conclude, because it's simply too early for that. We're starting this discussion. I'll have to answer the letter addressed to me by interim prime minister Allawi, but let me repeat here today what I've said before, there is a Security Council resolution, there is a fully legitimized interim government in Iraq with the Prime Minister who writes a letter to NATO. NATO should never slam the door in this Prime Minister's, or this government's face.

And if you ask me what else can be done, what roles NATO could play, my answer is, from the last day of June onwards we need a different mindset, and that mindset is that it is now the Iraqi interim government which is going to decide and to ask and to consider. It is NATO who decides. But it is the Iraqi government which holds the key to ask what they want to ask and they have the reins in their own hand so to say from the first of July onwards.

In brief, I think the Summit will be a substantial one. As I mentioned to you, there are a lot of subjects to discuss. NATO is an Alliance in full transformation, politically, militarily. Transformation is an ongoing process. It's not something which starts on Monday and ends on Friday. So I've taken over the helm from my respective predecessor Lord Robertson, and I'll go on with it and I'm sure that Heads of State and Government, 26 of them, and the partners, will have a lot to discuss at the coming submit in Istanbul.

Thank you very much. I'm open to your questions.

Questions and answers

Q: (inaudible)... foreign news agency, (inaudible)... Mr. General Secretary, has Summit follow-up... European Summit follow-up Istanbul Summit changed the plans of Heads of State and Government in Istanbul? It is the first part of the question. And second one, what is the main message NATO wants to deliver to Ukraine at Istanbul Summit? Thank you so much.

de Hoop Scheffer: If I understand the first part of your question correctly, this is the agenda part of it, no, as far as my knowledge goes it has not, and it will not influence, let's say, the order of play during the Summit. And ending as you know, with the EAPC luncheon on a Tuesday.

On your second question, I refer to it in my introduction. And this is what I've said in Kiev as well, when I met President Kuchma, defence and foreign ministers, Gryshchenko and Marchuk. That is that... Ukraine is of great value to the Alliance through its participation, active participation in operations. Ukraine has come a long way, I think, and is on the right track. A difficult track, a long and winding road on defence reform.

But if Ukraine has the ambition and Allies fully recognize that ambition and support that ambition, that Ukraine wants to continue the road to the Euro-Atlantic structures, i.e. the road to NATO, the road to European Union, it can only be done on the basis of full respect for democratic values and norms. And we all know what means. That means no harassment of the media. That means free and fair elections. That means the rule of law. That means freedom of expression.

I mean, we all know what it means. It's what NATO stands for. It's fairly easy. And secondly, it is in the annual target plan that Ukraine and NATO have agreed upon.

Q: (inaudible)...with the Polish Press Agency. When you are talking about a new mindset, and when you are talking of not slamming the door to Mr. Allawi's face, do you mean that you recommend to the Allies to fulfil his request, and do you expect any of the Allies going any further? Do you think that that they will just discuss the concrete request that they have on the table? Or any of them... do you expect any of them going further in recommending the further engagement of NATO in Iraq?

de Hoop Scheffer: I do not know. But I use the word mindset because if prime minister designate Allawi writes me a letter, Secretary General of NATO, I mean, we'll have to answer that letter. I have to sign that letter, but I do that, of course, on the basis of the consensus between Allies on the answer.

And the letter focuses on, as I said, on training, and on other forms of technical assistance. We'll start the debate, I can tell you, right this afternoon in council, immediately after this press conference.

So it's a bit early to say. I'm sorry for that, but I can't. It's a bit early to say what will be the result of that discussion. Certainly prime minister Allawi hopes that the result will be positive, because otherwise he wouldn't have written me the letter.

Q: (inaudible)...for NRC Handelsblad from the Netherlands. Talking about the substance of the Summit. Many diplomats at NATO still say that this upcoming Summit won't be remembered for long because it lacks a grand central theme. They compare it to a fruit basket with many small things. And in this respect are you aware of the fact that several leaders are planning to leave already on Monday evening? Could you confirm that?

de Hoop Scheffer: No, I can't.

Q: Like Prime Minister Verhofstadt from Belgium.

de Hoop Scheffer: I don't know the exact itinerary of Prime Minister Verhofstadt I must say. Neither of other prime ministers. But I don't have information of this kind. Second reaction: also a basket with bigger fruit in it can be a very interesting basket, and in other words, the element I have mentioned are very substantial indeed.

If I mention Afghanistan, if I mention the Balkans, the capabilities, I mean, I've given you all the elements, the discussion about Iraq. You can hardly say that this is not a substantial summit if you see what's on the table.

And so I'm sticking to my point. What diplomats say, and they're always anonymous, is not very relevant to me I'm afraid. And I hope that it's... what I'm saying is as relevant to you as what these anonymous diplomats are saying. And I know it is.

Q: Peter Mueller from Europäische Sicherheit. Secretary General, with all this transformation and all these changes in the security policy, how much is this necessary, to change all of the NATO strategic concept, to make a review on that?

de Hoop Scheffer: I think NATO's strategic concept is a good one, but if we look at the way ahead and what we have in Istanbul let me reiterate once again that this political and military transformation is ongoing and also very necessary because I can tell you NATO will deliver on its promises in Afghanistan.

But of course, the run up to fulfilling these promises has from time to time been a complicated one. Because this translation of political commitment was not always easy. I mean, I don't deny that. I've said this in public. It is not an ideal situation, to put it mildly, that the Secretary General goes around with his begging bowl for helicopters and C-130s. I hear the roar of their engines in my dreams from time to time at night, I can tell you.

So we need some fundamental changes there and they're not easy. And it will be a long-term discussion as part of this transformation. If you're going to discuss should we have more common funding, if you're going to discuss the principle, is it always right that you have the principle costs lie where they fall in operations? Should we have a bigger pooling of resources? I mean, I'm asking the questions. Nations will have to answer them. Those are very fundamental ones. And they don't... and the answers will not come easy.

But if you don't start having this debate, going from the assumption that the demands on NATO will not diminish but will increase, because what other organization is there to conduct operations like NATO's doing in Afghanistan--I think none--then we have to address them, because they're fundamental. But I think the concept as such is very adequate.

Q: (inaudible) la Radio espagnole (inaudible)... Je voudrais revenir à la lettre du premier Ministre irakien intérimaire. Est-ce qu'on a bien compris que dans le moment présent, l'Irak ne veut pas la présence militaire de l'OTAN sur le territoire?

Et à précis(?) des débats(?) dans cette organisation et hors de cette organisation et dans le processus de transformation que vous venez d'exprimer de l'OTAN, quelle est la répercussion de demander quelque chose qui n'a, je crois, jamais été demandé à l'OTAN, donc d'aider à la formation seulement.

de Hoop Scheffer: La lettre du Premier ministre intérimaire de l'Irak, M. Allawi est sur l'entrainement des forces et autre moyens d'assistance technique, comme je l'ai dit en Anglais pendant mon introduction.

Et c'est bien là qu'il nous faut répondre. On ne va pas donner une réponse aux questions qui ne nous sont pas posées. Et c'est par...du la pensée qu'il nous faut vis-à-vis l'Irak, parce que je crois que le Premier ministre irakien n'aimerait pas que l'Alliance réponde aux questions qu'il ne nous a pas posées.

Alors... la deuxième question que vous m'avez posé transformation politique et les transformations militaires de l'OTAN est un processus, comme je vous ai dit, et comme je vous ai dit permanent. Si les alliés sont d'accord...seraient d'accord, on ne sait pas, on va commencer le débat dans une demi-heure, et je pourrais répondre favorablement. L'OTAN, certainement, pourrait le faire. C'est pas la question, je crois.

Q: A follow-up question to that, Secretary General. It's unclear what NATO actually could have to offer in terms of training as a collective body. Could you give us some specifics on that as to actually what you could do for Iraq in that context?

de Hoop Scheffer: No, I do not. I'm sorry, because then really I would prejudge a debate we're going to have, the Ambassadors are going to have with me in council, and that would be not only unfair to them, but also not helpful for the debate, I'm afraid.

Q: Could I... I mean, it's related to this question, sorry of a...

de Hoop Scheffer: Yes.

Q: This issue of training security forces, do you believe that this should happen inside or outside Iraq, to start with?

Secondly, technical support, what does this mean? I mean, this is such a broad term? Does this mean fixing computers, or is this something... a proper, solid activity, military activity?

Thirdly, can I ask you, do you see any potential NATO involvement in this training tactical assistance, as just an opening step? Would you ultimately like to see boots on the ground, NATO boots on the ground?

de Hoop Scheffer: Your second and third question, your second is on the letter, and your third is on future roles, should be addressed to Prime Minister Allawi. Here again we're in the mindset. I mean, what is meant by technical assistance? I do not know what forms technical assistance could take! One could imagine many different forms. But here again, first of all, the mindset and secondly the same as in my answer to your colleague, and I'm not going to be specific now, first of all because we have not even begun to draft a reply to Prime Minister Allawi's letter. I expect that NATO's Heads of State and Government at their luncheon meeting on Monday will want to seriously address this very question and what we are going to do, of course, here in Brussels today is to prepare the ground for them.

So I mean, I do not want to sound to be over defensive in my answer, but I think we should play the movie in the right order and not from the back to the start.

Q: (inaudible)...

de Hoop Scheffer: Excuse me.

Q: (inaudible)...

de Hoop Scheffer: I think both are possible.

Q: Yes, I'm (inaudible)... from the Catalan newspaper L'avui. Two questions please. You said that you have...

de Hoop Scheffer: Where are you? Excuse me, yes.

Q: Sorry. You said that you have learned a lot this year on Afghanistan, which had concrete decisions that are going to be made in Istanbul in order to fulfil these political commitments that you're going to do in order to generate forces. Are you going to establish rotation systems? What are the exact decision you're going to take?

And the second question, on the Istanbul Co-operation Initiative, which are the countries, the Gulf countries that are confirmed, that will sign the initiative, and which will be their role, which will be their objective of this co-operation?

de Hoop Scheffer: On your first question, the general answer is that Heads of State and Government are going to take the necessary decisions so that NATO can fulfil its commitment, which means that NATO will... ISAF will organize security and stability, not only in Kabul, but in more cities and provinces in Afghanistan, starting in the north and going west. That NATO will honour its promise to elections support.

Having said that, and let me address some of the critics of NATO, NATO is not in Afghanistan. That's always a difficult thing, because it comes close to the "I'm not a crook" line which I don't intend to say, but realize what NATO's mandate in Afghanistan is. NATO's mandate is definitely not to run that country, to take over that country. NATO's mandate, ISAF mandate is to support the Karzai government, to support the Afghan national army, to support the police and to create, to help to create security and stability through the so-called provincial reconstruction teams. Not in all of Afghanistan, but starting in the north, by having more provincial reconstruction teams.

And NATO has said, again in that complementary role, we'll do what we can do within our means and capabilities to support the electoral process, and that is what we'll do.

But here again, the companies of the Afghan national army are as important or even more important than the companies of ISAF or NATO. And Heads of State and Government will honour what was promised.

Q: August (inaudible) from Koha Ditore, Kosovar daily newspaper. Among a lot of priorities you didn't mention Kosovo this time. Does it mean that Kosovo is not going to be on the agenda at all, and do you think then that there is nothing to discuss at the moment about Kosovo?

And second question, is NATO any closer to arrest Mr. Karadzic so it can conclude the mission in Bosnia with some pride? Madame del Ponte is mentioning next Tuesday as a kind of deadline, or the date when it possibly can happen.

de Hoop Scheffer: First of all, on Kosovo, of course it will be discussed, the Balkans will be discussed. I would hope that in answering your question I could give some more positive news on Kosovo, but KFOR, one of NATO's important operations, as I mentioned, is there to stay because we all know what happened mid-March and we all know that the situation in Kosovo is very fragile indeed.

Again, I would hope... I would have hoped to have a somewhat positive note, but here again NATO's following, of course, the political process very closely. But NATO, like in Afghanistan, is not in the driver's seat. There's a new special representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations and I sincerely hope that, let's say the political process can be brought forward by the international community, but first of all, by the people concerned, which are the K-Albanians and the K-Serbs by having the serious Pristina-Belgrade dialogue.

I mean, Bosnia-Herzegovina, SFOR will end as a great success, I think, if you realize that that's 60,000 forces were deployed and SFOR will end around the level of 7000. In Kosovo, unfortunately, the situation is still extremely fragile.

On the indicted war criminals, you know where the responsibility primarily is. That's not with NATO, although NATO supports. I cannot either deny or confirm any reports. I read them in the wires and in the news. I cannot confirm it and what I know is where NATO has an opportunity to be supportive of these kind of operations, of course, NATO will do so because, I repeat, they may be able to hide, but they will not be able to run forever, I can guarantee you.

Q: Monsieur le secrétaire général, (inaudible)... News. J'ai deux questions. Concernant le dialogue avec le Moyen-Orient élargi, comme vous l'avez (inaudible)... qui date de dix ans, est-ce qu'on pourrait considérer cela comme une continuité des discussions qui ont été établies au sommet du G8 concernant les propositions américaines des projets de réforme, et le même projet aussi qui a été contré par l'Union européenne.

Deuxième question, je reviens encore à la lettre de M. Allawi, est-ce que vous avez communiqué cette lettre aux 26 chefs d'états, et est-ce que vous vous attendez à une quelconque réaction. On entend, par exemple, que cette proposition a été plutôt proposée par le Président Bush que par M. Allawi.

de Hoop Scheffer: Ça m'étonne beaucoup ce que vous venez de dire. Si je reçois une lettre du Premier Ministre Allawi...c'est une lettre du Premier Ministre Allawi, n'est-ce pas?

Q: Oui.

de Hoop Scheffer: Full stop.

Q: Oui, mais c'est...

de Hoop Scheffer: Period. Full stop. L'OTAN va répondre aux lettres du Premier ministre intérimaire de l'Irak, et pas une lettre de quiconque. C'est le Premier ministre que a cent pourcent de légitimité par une résolution du Conseil de sécurité qui demande assistance à l'OTAN, pour l'entraînement des forces.

Sur cette première question, c'est bien sûr une initiative de renforcer le dialogue méditerranéen, et de lancer le Istanbul Co-operation Initiative. Venant de l'OTAN, c'est pas une sorte de conséquence du sommet du G8, ou du sommet États-Unis, Union européenne, qui, je crois, c'est aussi la semaine prochaine... Parce que c'est bien sûr dans le mandat...basé, fondé sur le mandat de l'OTAN, alors il n'y a pas une relation directe entre G8 et OTAN.

Ce qu'on a en commun, je crois, c'est que ici aussi à l'OTAN, on considère cette région une région pivot. Une région très importante. Qu'on veut renforcer le dialogue méditerranéen, et on veut commencer un dialogue avec les pays qui en sont intéressés. C'est à eux, vraiment, c'est à eux, c'est aux pays de dire s'ils sont intéressés ou pas.

Et c'est pas à l'OTAN d'imposer quelque chose, ou de dire on va faire comme ça, ou comme ça. Cela pourra seulement être le résultat d'un dialogue.

Q: Georgiana (inaudible) from the Hungarian Press. Secretary General, you said that you don't know what Mr. Allawi means by technical assistance, because he has not specified it in his letter. How will the prime ministers know?

de Hoop Scheffer: Well, I could very well imagine that after Istanbul there will be other contacts between myself and Prime Minister Allawi to ask for clarification. I mean, you cannot expect that 48 hours after we have got a letter and before allied leaders are going to discuss that letter, that we know... that we know everything he means.

It could be... it could be, I don't know. In theory it could be very possibilities. But I don't know. He wrote the letter, not I.

Q: Secretary General, (inaudible)... from (inaudible). From your words, form your statements, from your speeches, especially in the last period, my feeling is that you were in favour of putting NATO in a more active role in Iraq. Without prejudging the letter of the interim prime minister, do you consider that to provide technical assistance or training is an ambitious role for NATO? Thank you.

de Hoop Scheffer: You're starting from the wrong assumption, because I have always been very consistent in what I've said about Iraq and things to come. I've always said, and I repeat here again, that for NATO it will be relevant to have the Security Council resolution. It's there. To have as a consequence a legitimate Iraqi interim government. It's there.

I have always said that our 16 NATO Allies on the ground in Iraq, we're supporting the Polish leadership of the division. That doesn't change. Allies are going to decide--now we have this concrete letter--what they want to do and what they do not want to do. I mean, this Alliance needs consensus and I repeat again, we're going to start the debate this afternoon.

And in my public comments I've never gone any further than this.

Q: Monsieur le secrétaire général, Tariq Mahmoud(?) de la Middle East News Agency. Premièrement, permettez-moi de répéter la question de notre collègue Sandra concernant les pays du Golfe qui sont intéressés. Et le problème que, aussi, si je pourrais ajouter à cette question-là, le fait que l'Iran, avec les relations tendues maintenant, il y aura une implication de l'OTAN, qui pourrait créer beaucoup plus de tension dans la région. Ça, c'est la première.

Et la deuxième, vous insistez toujours sur la légitimité du gouvernement actuel à Bagdad, alors que le peuple irakien lui-même n'a pas dit ça. Je ne sais pas sur quelle base vous êtes (inaudible)... Est-ce que vous ne pensez pas que le fait que l'OTAN répond maintenant à Allawi ça pourrait impliquer l'OTAN d'une manière ou d'une autre dans l'Irak, alors que l'OTAN n'a pas d'avantage par rapport au troupes de coalition qui sont déjà sur les lieux. Merci.

de Hoop Scheffer: Sur la légitimité, je crois que je ne suis pas le seul pour prendre une résolution du conseil de sécurité des Nations Unies sur laquelle j'ai fondé avec beaucoup d'autres, j'ai l'impression, la légitimité du gouvernement intérimaire irakien.

C'est clair pour moi, je ne sais pas ce qu'on voudrait en plus d'une résolution du conseil de la sécurité. Et je suis d'accord avec vous que bien sûr, c'est d'un gouvernement intérimaire. Absolument. J'espère qu'on a des élections comme prévu en Irak, et que le processus politique se développera comme le peuple irakien le veut. Mais on ne peut pas dire le peuple irakien n'est pas allé aux urnes déjà, et par conséquent, dire ce gouvernement intérimaire manque de légitimité. Il est cent pourcent légitime, à mon avis.

Deuxième question, si je dis que le chef d'état du gouvernement vont lancer le Istanbul Cooperation Initiative, c'est le début d'un processus. Et je crois que c'est aux pays de Golfe, et pas à l'OTAN de dire qu'est-ce qu'on veut, si on veut, commencer une relation, un débat, une discussion avec l'OTAN sur quelconque sujet.

C'est pas à moi de leur nier le droit. Si on a eu un sondage, et s'ils nous ont dit qu'ils sont intéressés, de dire excusez-nous, mais on ne veut pas l'OTAN. Mais je souligne, c'est un début. Et je crois que dans les pays concernés, on a pensé et analysé ça, mais je répète, c'est un début, ce n'est pas la fin d'un processus, c'est le début d'un processus de consultation, de sondage.

Vous avez eu un troisième élément, excusez-moi. Pardon?

Q: L'avantage...les avantages dont dispose l'OTAN par rapport aux forces de coalition qui sont existantes sur les lieux.

de Hoop Scheffer: On a les seize alliés en Irak. Ma base c'est bien, et je le répète, la lettre de M. Allawi, qui apparemment, a écrit cette lettre pensant que l'OTAN pourrait, dans le sens de...dans le cadre de l'entraînement, pourrait avoir une valeur ajoutée. Et c'est sur cette base qu'on va discuter la lettre.

Q: Mr. Secretary General, Paul Asbrook(?) from Radio Netherlands. At the beginning of this press conference you said that in Afghanistan NATO credibility is at stake, but the Americans already have their operation in Afghanistan, so what you're really saying is that the credibility of the European member states in NATO is at stake.

And secondly, do you see also a limit to eventual NATO activities in Iraq? Is there a limit?

de Hoop Scheffer: On your first question, it's... NATO. I said is NATO, it's a NATO operation. That's in Afghanistan. We also have Operation Enduring Freedom. That's another matter. There is, as you know, a relationship between the two because... as far as the protection and support for the provincial reconstruction teams are concerned, you know the forces of Operation Enduring Freedom play a role, for close air support, extraction and what have you.

But when I mention NATO's credibility I mean NATO's credibility. It's a NATO operation. Again, I mean, my mind is more or less at rest now because NATO will be able to deliver. But I mean, NATO and the international community cannot afford to fail and to see Afghanistan falling back again in what it was, which was a safe haven for terrorists.

So we should go on and will go on supporting the Karzai government. That's why I mentioned this word sustainability, because Afghanistan is not something you go in and after six months you go out again.

And as far as your second question is concerned, I really do not know... I mean, because that's also a question for Prime Minister Allawi in fact.

Q: Jennifer Freedman with Bloomberg News. I'd like to know, particularly in light of the blast today in Turkey, how concerned you are about security for next week?

de Hoop Scheffer: I... we notice again this morning in Ankara that terrorism is everywhere. I've been there, and I have full confidence in our Turkish hosts, that they have taken and are taking all the measures necessary to ensure not only a politically interesting and good summit, but also from the point of security.

But it's another proof that they are everywhere, and that this Alliance is in Afghanistan and is in so many other places, because they are indiscriminate and they want to destroy the fabric of the societies you and I so dearly love and like.

And that's key for me. That wherever NATO can make a contribution, when Allies think the interests are at stake, their interests are at stake, and when they can find a consensus, NATO should participate in this battle against terrorism.

But, coming back to your question, I have full confidence in our Turkish friends and our Turkish hosts.

Thank you very much indeed.