13 06 2008

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates joined NATO defense ministers here Thursday in an effort to push forward a design for missile defenses that will protect all alliance nations from a potential Iranian ballistic missile attack.

Over their scheduled two days of talks, the defense ministers also will discuss additional fighting forces and military trainers for the NATO-led stability mission in Afghanistan, as well as security issues arising from insurgents hiding across the border in neighboring Pakistan.

The future status of a NATO training mission in Kosovo, which adopts its constitution on June 15 but whose independence is not yet recognized by all alliance members, also is on the agenda.

Senior alliance officials said that no major decisions were expected out of the talks.

A senior Defense Department official traveling with Mr. Gates said the United States would press alliance members to agree on options for a defensive system.  Almost all of Turkey would not be covered by the longer-range missile defense system the United States hopes to install in Poland and the Czech Republic, and NATO is committed to extending the protection to all 26 alliance nations and their populations.

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