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Home >> World
UPDATED: 10:25, April 02, 2005
Round-up: Australia, NATO seek closer ties
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Australia and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) are seeking closer ties during the first visit to Australia by the head of NATO.

Australia decided to post a defense attache to Brussels, NATO's headquarters, and also signed a security agreement with NATO on Friday on enhancing intelligence cooperation in the fight against terrorism.

The moves came as NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer is in Canberra for a visit, during which he held talks with Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer and Defense Minister Robert Hill.

Scheffer has visited New Zealand and will also visit Japan.

Hill said the decision to post a defense attache to Brussels is aimed at helping improve communications in the war on terrorism.

"We believe with the changes of emphasis of NATO we are likely to be working more closely with NATO in the future," he said.

"Looking at what is happening in Iraq at the moment already illustrates that that likelihood would come to be the case," he said.

"We therefore see it in our interests to be closer to NATO in a more practical way," he said.

Downer said closer relationship with NATO would help the fight against terrorism.

"We've agreed that there will be some exchanges of intelligence on counter-terrorism between Australia and NATO and that will take forward yet another step in our relationship on those issues," he said.

Scheffer said it is important that NATO and the Australian government exchange as much information as they can, adding both NATO and Australia can benefit from closer links in dealing with global threats.

"We are facing terrorism everywhere and anywhere," he said. "We are all facing -- the NATO alliance, Australia and this region alike -- the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. We are all faced with the consequences of fragile and failing states."

Scheffer also praised Australia's role in Iraq, saying Australia is making an important contribution in the war-torn Middle East country and this can not be under-estimated.

Australia now maintained about 950 military personnel in the Middle East, with 400 in Iraq. Australian Prime Minister John Howard announced last month that Australia will send 450 more troops to Iraq's southern province of Muthanna.

Source: Xinhua

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