Rumsfeld: Moderate Muslim leaders needed

/ Source: The Associated Press

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, visiting a U.S. warship anchored off the coast of France Wednesday, said more moderate Islamic nations are needed to counter the threat of extremism.

Rumsfeld, in France for a meeting of NATO defense ministers, held up the governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan as such moderates willing to help in the U.S.-led war on terrorism. He said he hoped Iraq would also emerge as such a nation.

“We need more moderate Muslim leadership in this world to help us in the struggle against extremists,” he told the crew of the O’Bannon, a Mayport, Fla.-based destroyer on a cruise of the Mediterranean Sea.

Each of the governments he held up for praise faces serious problems. Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf came to power in a coup and has faced several threats against his life for his support of the Bush administration’s efforts in Afghanistan. Both the governments of Afghanistan and Iraq were put in place after a U.S.-led invasion, and face an active insurgency.

Rumsfeld acknowledged the path to democracy in Iraq is not certain. Violence there has continued even after the Jan. 30 elections.

“I wish I could tell you everything was going to turn out well, but I can’t,” he said.

Reorg at NATO?
Rumsfeld’s attendance at the NATO conferences comes as the Bush administration tries to push the trans-Atlantic alliance into restructuring itself and taking on more missions in Afghanistan and Iraq.

At the meeting, NATO defense ministers are expected to announce a major expansion of the alliance’s peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan, including the deploying of several NATO-run reconstruction teams in the country’s western provinces.

Rumsfeld is also expected to press NATO ministers to provide more trainers for Iraqi security forces. NATO has sent between 80 and 100 soldiers to Baghdad for the training mission, many of them Americans working under NATO command.

Issue over control
Several countries, including France and Germany, have refused to send any trainers. This has led Bush administration officials to renew their push for the elimination of so-called “national caveats” that allow the political leadership of individual NATO members to have direct control of their forces working under a NATO banner.

Rumsfeld’s visit comes as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice finishes up a tour of Europe, and President Bush is expected to visit the region later this month. Bush administration officials have said they are trying to re-engage Europe after many countries voiced opposition to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.