BRUSSELS — NATO defense ministers agreed Wednesday to consider using alliance forces in a wider peacekeeping role, but they remained deeply divided over the shape of European defenses in the post-Cold War era.
U.S. Defense Secretary Dick Cheney said he thinks NATO will agree next week to plans for helping the 52-nation Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe with peacekeeping missions on an increasingly fragmented continent.
But he added that the United States has no plans to send its soldiers to Yugoslavia, bloodied by civil war.
North Atlantic Treaty Organization Secretary General Manfred Woerner said the 16-nation alliance could make its expertise and troops available but only for European peacekeeping missions--not military intervention.
"We are not intending to be the defense arm of the CSCE," he said at the end of the two-day meeting.
The allies seemed reassured on one issue that has bothered NATO greatly since the breakup of the Soviet Union.
Woerner and Cheney told reporters that the huge former Soviet arsenal of short-range nuclear weapons has now been transferred safely to Russia for destruction and that none of the warheads seems to have been lost or stolen.