Nato would examine carefully any evidence suggesting that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was linked to the September 11 terror attacks, the alliance’s secretary general George Robertson said today.
If such a link were proven, then various ‘‘courses of action’’ were possible.
However, Mr Robertson emphasised that at this point there was nothing to indicate that the Iraqi president had any responsibility for the attacks on the United States.
He was asked whether he would support a war against Iraq.
Mr Robertson said: ‘‘Iraq is not in Nato’s back yard in any event.
‘‘But clearly if there was evidence pointing towards Saddam Hussein being responsible in any way for the atrocities of September 11, or if it was found that he was harbouring people who were intimately connected with that, then I think the world would jump automatically to the conclusion that he represented a bigger threat.
‘‘But so far the Americans themselves have publicly said that they don’t see evidence linking bin Laden to Saddam Hussein’s regime.
‘‘But if the evidence came forward then I think the international community and Nato itself would want to look and examine that evidence and to work out what then should be done about it.
‘‘If more evidence comes forward and people are convinced by it then other courses of action may be embarked upon. But until that happens, I don’t think people should jump to conclusions.’’
Mr Robertson also discussed the increasingly close relationship between Nato and Russia.
But asked if Russia was ever likely to join Nato, he said: ‘‘Probably not.
‘‘President (Vladimir) Putin said to me that he wasn’t going to queue up for Nato membership.
‘‘I told him that there was only one way of becoming a member of Nato and that was by applying for membership and complying with the standards that are laid down for Nato membership.
‘‘He said, ‘I think we should develop our relationship between Nato as it is and Russia as it is, and we don’t need to talk about the question of Russia becoming a member of Nato again’.’’