NATO chief George Robertson has accused three European states blocking an accord on defending Turkey of "vandalizing" the alliance, according to a leaked memo cited by AFP.
The memo also cited NATO intelligence indicating that Iraq has moved missiles close to the Kuwaiti border and could use them pre-emptively, as justification for the need rapidly to boost Turkey's defenses.
"Today's (NATO) intelligence reporting ... shows that Saddam has moved CBW-capable ballistic missiles close to the Kuwait border," said Robertson in the memo, originally reported by Belgian state television.
The NATO chief asked himself why the missiles would be moved to such a vulnerable position. "There can be only one reason: that Saddam is planning to use these weapons pre-emptively," he said.
"He is giving himself the choice of using them or losing them. I have no doubt which he will choose," he said in the memo, marked "NATO confidential" and labelled as speaking notes to a meeting of NATO ambassadors February 12.
The seven-page memo, leaked to state RTBF television, cited Robertson as attacking Belgium, France and Germany in strong terms over their continued opposition to US proposals to start planning to boost Turkey's defences in case of a war on Iraq.
"I am ... extremely disappointed that they are still prepared to put so much at risk on such a technical issue," said Robertson, according to the speaking notes.
"Everyone must be very clear about the consequences. Yes, NATO will be damaged. Very seriously. But NATO is the nations' collective property, and if you choose to vandalize it, that is up to you," he said.
He said the reported movement of Iraqi missiles towards the Kuwaiti border justified the need for NATO to send Patriot anti-missile systems and other equipment to boost Turkey's border with Iraq.
"If he is planning pre-emptive action against Kuwait, why would he not be doing so against Turkey, especially as Turkey's allies cannot agree on providing even the bare minimum of military assistance," he said.
"Europeans say they are worried about US unilateralism. I can think of no better way to encourage voices in Washington who would like to abandon multilateral cooperation... than to refuse to allow the Atlantic Alliance to meet its collective obligations," said Robertson, in the memo.
Referring to the crisis as a "damaging logjam" for the 19-member alliance, Robertson said that "the implications of not reaching agreement are extremely grave."
"I believe that there is a gamble with the security of an ally, the only NATO country within range of Saddam Hussein's arsenal of conventional, chemical and biological weapons," he added.
Robertson concluded that he was being "blunt... But the stakes are very high. If we cannot move forward, noone will be able to hide the deep divide in this council. Or the implications." (Albawaba.com)
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