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NATO leaders agreed on compromise language that recognizes the leadership of the U.N. in brokering international disputes -- but does not explicitly require NATO to seek U.N. approval before taking military action.
The agreement settled a dispute between the United States and France over the alliance's authority to launch offensive military actions.
NATO leaders -- meeting in Washington for the alliance's 50th anniversary summit -- also reaffirmed their intention to eventually expand NATO beyond the 19 nations that are currently members.
The summit, planned months ago as a celebration of NATO's success in keeping peace in Europe since World War II, has been overshadowed by the attack on Yugoslavia the first military offensive by NATO against a sovereign country.
Strategic blueprint updated
Alliance leaders on Saturday also approved a new strategic blueprint designed to speed up future NATO deployments and to fight both international terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
U.S. President Bill Clinton said the new blueprint -- updated for the first time since 1991 -- would permit the alliance to "advance security and freedom for another 50 years by enhancing our capacity to address conflicts beyond our borders, by protecting our citizens from terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, by deepening our partnerships with other nations and helping new members enter through NATO's open doors."
The blueprint is also designed to improve the coordination of intelligence among the 19 NATO allies, as well as the sharing of technology, so forces from different countries can be better integrated during joint military operations.
European security initiative approved
NATO leaders also signed an initiative that allows European nations to conduct security operations that are "separable but not separate" from NATO, said NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana.
He said those operations would use European troops and be under European command but would use NATO military assets. He said it has not yet been decided if European members could use NATO assets without the approval of other NATO members.
Two NATO countries -- the United States and Canada -- are outside of Europe.
U.N. recognized as peace leader
The United States has opposed efforts to require the U.N. Security Council to approve NATO military strikes, such as the ongoing action against Yugoslavia. France and some other NATO countries have maintained the alliance needs U.N. approval.
American officials say that would undermine the authority of the alliance, and they note that Russia and China would have exercised their Security Council vetoes to block the strikes on Yugoslavia.
The compromise language used in the NATO agreement Saturday recognizes the Security Council as the leading authority for upholding international peace and security, and it commits NATO to act within the principles of the U.N. charter. But it does not explicitly require the United Nations to sanction any NATO military action.
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