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NATO DEFENSE CHIEFS URGE INCREASED SPENDING, PRESERVATION OF ALLIANCE

The 19 NATO defense ministers ended their two-day meeting here Wednesday with calls for more military spending and an assertion that the alliance must remain at the forefront of European security despite calls for a new, Europe-only military organization.

"The transatlantic link remains strong," U.S. Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen said, referring to the states on both sides of the Atlantic that make up the 50-year-old North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

As the proposal for the Europe-only military alliance picks up steam, Cohen stressed that there must not be "one set of requirements developing in Europe and a separate set for NATO" that could lead to a "dissociation" between NATO and the proposed European military command.

In reviewing the recent military campaign in the Balkans, Cohen and others stressed the need for a unification of military technology.

During the Balkans mission, some European military equipment was so outdated that there was an inability to communicate effectively with other allies or link with satellite-directing technology to ensure that bombs hit the designated targets.

In some cases, countries will have to spend more money on military upgrades, Cohen said, but those increases can be limited if the allies spend their "defense budgets more intelligently" and military technologies are better coordinated.

Other countries must persuade "their parliaments, finance ministers and indeed their publics that Kosovo demonstrated we must take a number of steps to correct those deficiencies," he added.

NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana, who ends his four-year term as NATO chief this month, also said some of the allies must "think seriously about the level of the capabilities of their armed forces, if they want to continue having the possibility of participating in a constructive manner in the alliance."

Despite this, Solana said, NATO achieved its Balkan war aims by ending ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, halting the flow of refugees, and deploying an international force deployed there "at the same time that the Serbian forces were withdrawn."

Canada came in for its share of criticism by media covering the meeting after the Toronto Post reported that Canada was second only to Luxembourg in its low rate of fulfilling NATO goals.

While Canadian defense minister Art Eggleton acknowledged that his country accepted only little more than one-third of the tasks assigned to it by NATO in 1998, he said that this year, Canada has met 120 of 129 of NATO's force goals.

Both U.S. officials and Solana also made a point of praising Canada's contribution to the alliance.

Outside the NATO gathering, about 1,500 demonstrators passionately but peacefully chanted slogans and condemned NATO, protesting that the bombing campaign in Serbia had killed babies.

NATO "broke every covenant and treaty to bomb a sovereign nation when it attacked Serbia," said Stevan Ivancevic, president of the Center for Peace in the Balkans, the group that organized the protest. "Now, NATO has occupied Kosovo, which we regard as a southern Serbian province."

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