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Washington Post:Rumsfeld Enlists Montenegro in War on Terrorism

Published date: 26.09.2006 18:11 | Author: Kliping inostranih medija

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PODGORICA, Montenegro (Reuters) - U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Tuesday enlisted the support of Europe's newest state in the war on terrorism and promised to help train Montenegro's modest army of 2,500 to NATO standards.

The highest-ranking U.S. visitor since Montenegro broke with Serbia in June to declare independence met Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic to discuss how the former Yugoslav republic might help America's military perations,
perhaps with peacekeeping or special perations forces.

Rumsfeld's discussions with Montenegro on security cooperation come as the United States enters its fifth year of combat operations in Afghanistan and encounters unrelenting violence in Iraq that has frustrated Pentagon plans to start bringing some U.S. troops home.

Djukanovic made no commitment to provide troops to current U.S. operations, according to U.S. officials. But he told reporters Montenegro was prepared to ``accept all responsibilities of a nation to join Europe.''

Montenegro, a mountainous state on the shores of the Adriatic Sea, is half the size of Belgium and has a population of just 650,000. It has just
scrapped conscription and plans to reduce its current military force from around 4,000 to 2,500.

``The danger from terrorism (is) a global threat to world peace and security,'' Djukanovic said after talks with Rumsfeld.

``That's why we are prepared to participate in the U.S.-led coalition to fight terrorism. What form that will take, we did not discuss in any great detail.''

Rumsfeld said Washington supports Montenegro's bid for early entry into the NATO Partnership for Peace program -- a program of formal cooperation and consultation between NATO and 23 non-NATO countries in the Euro-Atlantic area -- which Djukanovic expects to join later this year.

The defense secretary was heading to neighboring Albania for the Southeastern European Defense Ministerial, a meeting of the defense ministers of eight countries, where he plans to discuss NATO cooperation and Balkan integration.

Later this week, he will attend an informal meeting of NATO defense ministers in Slovenia, another former Yugoslav republic.

The United States has 142,000 troops in Iraq and military officials say that level is unlikely to decline before mid-2007 at the earliest.

On Monday, the Pentagon extended some U.S. soldiers' tours in Iraq, a war that remains unpopular among Americans and which has become a critical campaign issue ahead of the November elections to determine control of the U.S. Congress.

Many European nations, including Albania, have already contributed troops to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.