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NATO to Join Anti-IS Coalition         05/25 05:56

   BRUSSELS (AP) -- NATO's chief affirmed Thursday that the alliance will join 
the international coalition fighting the Islamic State group but will not wage 
direct war against the extremists --- an announcement timed for U.S. President 
Donald Trump's first appearance at a summit of the alliance's leaders.

   In the wake of this week's suicide bomb attack at a concert in Manchester, 
NATO leaders are keen to show that the alliance born in the Cold War is 
responding to today's security threats as they meet in Brussels. Trump has 
questioned its relevance and pushed members to do more to defend themselves.

   Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Thursday that joining the U.S.-led 
anti-Islamic State coalition "will send a strong political message of NATO's 
commitment to the fight against terrorism and also improve our coordination 
within the coalition."

   But he underlined that "it does not mean that NATO will engage in combat 
operations."

   All 28 NATO allies are individual members of the 68-nation anti-IS 
coalition. But some, notably France and Germany, have feared that NATO 
officially joining it might upset decision-making within the coalition or 
alienate Middle East countries taking part.

   Stoltenberg said that joining would send a strong political signal.

   As part of its efforts to respond to Trump's demand to do more to fight 
terrorism, NATO will also set up a counter-terrorism intelligence cell to 
improve information-sharing.

   It will notably focus on so-called foreign fighters who travel from Europe 
to train or fight with extremists in Iraq and Syria.

   After a working dinner at Thursday's summit, the leaders are also set to 
announce the appointment of an anti-terror coordinator to oversee their 
efforts, and increase the number of flight hours of a surveillance plane 
watching the skies over northern Iraq and Syria.

   Another big item on the NATO agenda is Trump's challenge to other countries 
to up their military spending. Leaders will agree to submit annual action plans 
laying out how they plan to meet NATO's spending goals. The plans would also 
describe what kind of military equipment they intend to invest in, and what 
contributions they will make to operations.

   Stoltenberg refused to be drawn into a row between the United States and 
Britain after leaked photos from the Manchester bomb scene appeared in The New 
York Times.

   He said the dispute over leaked intelligence is a "bilateral issue," but 
noted that within NATO "sharing intelligence is based on trust." 


(KA)

 
 
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