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NATO defense and foreign ministers met in Brussels today to prepare for the 19-20 Lisbon summit of allied leaders. The summit is expected to approve the alliance’s new strategic concept, which NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said during his press conference would answer the following “essential questions: what modern defense should be, the importance of maintaining strong deterrence while at the same time contributing to arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation, how NATO should manage crises and our degree of openness to partners.”NATO photo of Rasmussen and Gates meeting before ministerialThe summit is also expected to approve the extension of NATO Advanced Layered Theater Missile Defense of deployed forces to include missile defense of the populations and territory of European countries. Rasmussen described the common costs to NATO of doing so as a “modest” 147 million euros. He also would like “to give Russia the possibility of cooperating with us and sharing the fruits of this cooperation.” He hopes there will be a NATO-Russia Council summit with President Dmitry Medvedev.Rasmussen expects the Lisbon summit to approve a new round of streamlining of the NATO military command structure from the current 13,000 personnel in 11 headquarters to below 9,000 and a reduction in NATO agencies from 14 to three. He said the summit would also agree to a list of capabilities required by NATO forces, including protection against road-side bombs, medical support and air transport.Afghanistan was not on the formal agenda of the meetings, but in response to journalists’ questions, Rasmussen said he hoped that the Lisbon summit would be able to announce the beginning of transition to an Afghan lead starting in 2011, “based on the fact that we have fully resourced our training mission”. He added that negotiations with the Taliban should be Afghan-led, albeit facilitated by NATO and under certain conditions: accepting democracy and human, including women’s, rights and rejecting terrorism. In response to journalists’ questions about the death of a British aid worker in a botched rescue attempt by US special forces, Rasmussen and later US Secretary of State Robert Gates blamed the Taliban for kidnapping her in the first place.
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