New NATO Building Opens in Spain
MADRID, Spain (AP) _ In one of his last official acts as NATO secretary-general, Javier Solana joined NATO Gen. Wesley Clark on Thursday in inaugurating NATO’s new southwest sub-regional command in Spain, a symbol, they said, of the alliance’s new structure.
Solana, who steps down on Oct. 6 as NATO’s civilian leader, said he was delighted to preside over an act that also symbolized Spain’s full integration in the alliance.
Solana said he was leaving behind a NATO with ``new structures, a new relationship with Russia, and a new association with neighboring countries″ that guaranteed future security.
He is to be replaced by Britain’s Defense Secretary George Robertson. A former foreign minister for Spain, Solana is to take up the post as the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign and Security Affairs on Oct. 18.
Clark, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe, said the opening was a historic moment as the alliance had waited nearly two decades for Spain to become fully integrated.
Spain joined NATO in 1982. Back then, Solana belonged to the opposition Socialist party and was steadfastly opposed to NATO and Spain’s membership.
Clark heaped praise on Solana’s term for his work in forging the changes in NATO’s makeup and especially for ``the courage and steadfastness and his great leadership role during the recent war in and around Kosovo.″
The Madrid command forms part of an overhaul of NATO military command structure to make it more flexible and able to respond quickly to regional conflicts, peacekeeping missions or threats for other states.
NATO’s Cold War structure had been designed in preparation for a frontal Warsaw Pact assault.