Oskanian at NATO Meeting of Foreign Affairs Ministers

YEREVAN (Armenpress/NATO/RFE/RL)–Armenia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Vartan Oskanian on Thursday participated in the NATO/Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council meeting of foreign affairs ministers.

The Brussels meeting was overshadowed by the controversy that has erupted in Europe over allegations that the United States is using unlawful tactics in the fight against terrorism. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the allies had understood what she called the US "dilemma" of needing to prevent terrorist attacks using lawful means. She also emphasized that the United States does not torture suspects nor transport them to other countries to be tortured.

Meanwhile–the foreign ministers agreed to expand the alliance’s International Security Assistance Force mission in Afghanistan by deploying 6,000 more troops into the southern region–according to a NATO release.

They also launched an antidrug drive in Central Asia and expanded their mission for training Iraqi officers. "Ministers discussed Iraq–and they agreed that NATO’s training mission for Iraq officers will expand to include a so-called basic officers’ course and a leadership course for noncommissioned officers," he said.

NATO officials say this will bring the mission to full strength.

A NATO-Russia meeting set for later on Thursday will launch a counternarcotics training program for officials from Afghanistan and the five Central Asian countries. The initiative will include Uzbekistan–which had a low-level delegation visit Brussels yesterday and today.

However–since the brutal crackdown in Andijan in May–Uzbekistan operates what NATO officials call "an empty chair policy" at political meetings–and the Uzbek foreign minister was not present at today’s Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council meeting. The 45 countries present held a discussion on the values NATO partners are expected to share. Officials say Uzbekistan came in for harsh condemnation.

The Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council was set up in 1997 to replace the North Atlantic Cooperation Council established in 1991. Sessions between foreign and defense ministers meet only once a year.

Their purpose is to consult jointly on questions of common interest–increase mutual confidence and reduce the risk of conflict.

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