NATO members Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Norway are expected to make the request "in the coming weeks" that "nuclear arms on European soil belonging to other NATO member states are removed," according to a spokesman for Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme.
"It's a question of launching the debate at the heart of NATO," Dominique Dehaene said.
Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands are believed to hold some of the roughly 200 U.S. tactical nuclear weapons that remain in Europe, though most are estimated to be in Italy and Turkey. At the height of tensions with the then-Soviet Union, the United States reportedly fielded thousands of such armaments on the continent.
The request would not address the nuclear arsenals of France and the United Kingdom, AFP reported.
"Belgium is in favor of a world without nuclear weapons and advocates this position at the heart of NATO," ahead of the May review conference for the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, Leterme said in a prepared statement (Agence France-Presse I/Spacewar.com, Feb. 19).
The former head of NATO joined three other Belgian statesmen today in similarly calling for the withdrawal of the European-based U.S. deterrent, according to AFP.
"The Cold War is over. It's time to adapt our nuclear policy to the new circumstances," according to a statement signed by former NATO chief Willy Claes, former Belgian Prime Ministers Jean-Luc Dehaene and Guy Verhofstadt and former Foreign Minister Louis Michel.
"The U.S. tactical nuclear weapons in Europe have lost all military importance," adds the statement, which was published in a number of Belgian newspapers.
"We call on our (Belgian) government to follow the example of the German government and to call in NATO for a rapid withdrawal of the nuclear arms," the authors wrote (see GSN, Oct. 30, 2009).
Present NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen has cautioned any nation against rushing to divest itself of the U.S. weapons, AFP reported.
"I hope that any step will take place in the alliance in a multilateral framework and that no unilateral step be taken," Rasmussen said last fall. "This is a question which concerns all allies. It's a question of overall security and defense" (Agence France-Presse I/Spacewar.com, Feb. 19).~ Link ~