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NATO at 60: A War in Afghanistan, and a Purpose to Redefine

Alliance leaders hold an anniversary summit in France and Germany. Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.

NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, is sixty years old. On April fourth, nineteen forty-nine, twelve countries signed the North Atlantic Treaty in Washington. They were allies from World War Two. They promised to protect each other from the growing threat they saw from another former ally, the Soviet Union.

Leaders from NATO countries have gathered for two days of meetings through Saturday in Strasbourg, France, and Kehl, Germany. The summit meetings also brought thousands of troops and police for security and to control protests.

NATO spokesman James Appathurai said the main subject at the sixtieth anniversary meetings would be the NATO operations in Afghanistan. President Obama announced a new policy on Afghanistan and Pakistan last week.

About thirty-eight thousand American troops are currently in Afghanistan. The president is moving to raise that to about sixty-eight thousand by the end of the year.

The collapse of the Soviet Union and the breakup of Yugoslavia in the nineteen nineties challenged NATO's traditional position as a defensive alliance. Ten years ago at this time, NATO was bombing Serbia to end its violent campaign against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.

NATO first brought together the countries of Western Europe with Canada and the United States. Today it includes former enemies of NATO that were members of the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact. NATO's expansion to the east, toward the borders of Russia, has raised Russian concerns.

This week, Albania and Croatia officially joined NATO -- bringing the alliance to twenty-eight nations. And French President Nicholas Sarkozy has decided to return France to NATO's military command for the first time in more than forty years.

Looking to the future, spokesman James Appathurai says there are questions that NATO must answer.

JAMES APPATHURAI: "What do we need to do: Should we do more to fight cyber attacks? Should we do more to engage in energy security? How far should NATO's reach be for operations? Who should our partners be and how should we engage them?"

On Thursday, leaders of major industrial and developing countries met in London to battle the world recession. The Group of Twenty agreed to finance one trillion dollars in additional loans and credits for struggling countries. The money will go to the International Monetary Fund and other lenders.

President Obama said there is no guarantee that all the steps agreed to at the meeting will work, but:

PRESIDENT OBAMA: "I think we applied the right medicine. I think the patient is stabilized. There are still wounds that have to heal. There are still emergencies that could arise. But I think you have some pretty good care being applied."

The American president will meet with European Union leaders in the Czech Republic on Sunday. He talked about the summit at a meeting of mainly French and German students in Strasbourg on Friday. He says that in Prague he will lay out a plan to seek the goal of a world without nuclear weapons. Then Barack Obama heads to Turkey for the last stop on his first trip to Europe as president.

And that's IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English, written by Brianna Blake. I'm Doug Johnson.