Afghanistan likely to dominate Munich Security Conference

Politics Materials 3 February 2008 17:55 (UTC +04:00)
Afghanistan likely to dominate Munich Security Conference

( dpa ) - The debate in NATO about troop commitments to Afghanistan is expected to figure prominently in the annual Munich Security Conference that opens in the Bavarian capital February 8.

The demand by US Defence Secretary Robert Gates for more troops has placed Washington's European partners in the alliance on the defensive, conference organizer Horst Teltschik said Sunday.

Some 350 high-calibre politicians and military leaders are due to take part in the three-day gathering, which will be opened with a speech by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Gates, US Republican presidential candidate John McCain and Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov will be there along with the presidents of Georgia, Macedonia and Moldova.

More than 40 foreign and defence ministers have pledged to attend the conference, the slogan of which is "a world in disarray - shifting powers - lack of strategies."

Teltschik said the number of conflicts in the world was growing and the international community was becoming less certain of how to deal with them. Among the other topics under discussion will be the future of NATO, the role China and Japan can play in international stability, Kosovo and Russia's relations with the West, Teltschik said.

NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and Mohammed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), will be joining in the talks, he said.

Representing Germany will be Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Defence Minister Franz Josef Jung, who on Friday rejected Gates' request to send combat troops to fight the Taliban and al-Qaeda in southern Afghanistan.

Steinmeier said he would use the conference to press for a greater commitment to arms control and a dialogue along the lines of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe that led to a significant reduction in Cold War tensions in the mid-1970s.

"Security is not created through the possession of weapons, but through the creation of trust as well," the foreign minister told the German daily Handelsblatt.