Bush confident NATO to back missile defense system, pledge more troops
By TERENCE HUNT
AP White House Correspondent
BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — President Bush expressed confidence today that NATO will bolster its combat forces in Afghanistan and endorse a missile defense system for Europe that Russia has opposed.
“I’m optimistic that this is a going to be a very successful summit,” Bush said, sitting alongside NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer hours before the 26-nation military alliance opened three days of meetings with a leaders’ dinner.
The summit has been troubled by divisions, most notably opposition from France and Germany to giving Ukraine and Georgia a plan for eventually joining NATO. Bush indicated that was an open question because any NATO member can block it.
“We’ll see,” he said, saying one country was still an issue.
Bush has been pushing NATO countries to commit more troops to the 47,000-strong NATO force in Afghanistan. At least 10 countries, including France, Germany, Norway and Poland, have announced they would do so, but Bush would like to see more.
“I feel good about what I’m hearing from my fellow leaders about their desire to support Afghanistan,” the president said. “I think if tomorrow we get clarification on troop support ... the people of Afghanistan are going to be more than grateful.” He did not mention any specific numbers of additional troops.
Published in The Messenger 4.2.08