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NATO want First Strike Nuclear Option

The west must be ready to resort to a pre-emptive nuclear attack to try to halt the "imminent" spread of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, according to a radical Manifesto for a new Natoby five of the west's most senior military officers and strategists.

Calling for root-and-branch reform of Nato and a new pact drawing the US, Nato and the European Union together in a "grand strategy" to tackle the challenges of an increasingly brutal world, the former armed forces chiefs from the US, Britain, Germany, France and the Netherlands insist that a "first strike" nuclear option remains an "indispensable instrument" since there is "simply no realistic prospect of a nuclear-free world".

The Manifesto has been presented to the Pentagon in Washington and to Nato's Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer. The proposals are likely to be discussed at a Nato Summit in Bucharest in April.

"The risk of further [nuclear] proliferation is imminent and, with it, the danger that nuclear war fighting, albeit limited in scope, might become possible," the authors argued in the 150-page blueprint for urgent reform of western military strategy and structures. "The first use of nuclear weapons must remain in the quiver of escalation as the ultimate instrument to prevent the use of weapons of mass destruction."

The authors - General John Shalikashvili ( the former chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff and Nato's ex-Supreme Commander in Europe), General Klaus Naumann, Ex-Chairman of Nato's Military Committee, General Henk van den Breemen, a former Dutch Chief of Staff, Admiral Jacques Lanxade, a former French Chief of Staff, and Lord Inge, Field Marshal and Ex-Chief of the General Staff and the Defence Staff in the UK - paint an alarming picture of the threats and challenges confronting the west in the post-9/11 world and deliver a withering verdict on the ability to cope.

 They identify the key threats as:

* Political fanaticism and religious fundamentalism.

* The "dark side" of globalisation, meaning international terrorism, organised crime and the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

* Climate change and energy security, entailing a contest for resources and potential "environmental" migration on a mass scale.

* The weakening of the nation state as well as of organisations such as the UN, Nato and the EU.

To prevail, the Generals call for an overhaul of Nato decision-taking methods, a new "directorate" of US, European and Nato leaders to respond rapidly to crises, and an end to EU "obstruction" of and rivalry with Nato. Among the most radical changes demanded are:

* A shift from consensus decision-taking in Nato bodies to majority voting, meaning faster action through an end to national vetoes.

* The abolition of national caveats in Nato operations of the kind that plague the Afghan campaign.

* No role in decision-taking on Nato operations for alliance members who are not taking part in the operations.

* The use of force without UN SecurityCcouncil authorisation when "immediate action is needed to protect large numbers of human beings".

Naumann suggested the threat of nuclear attack was a counsel of desperation. "Proliferation is spreading and we have not too many options to stop it. We don't know how to deal with this."

Nato needed to show "there is a big stick that we might have to use if there is no other option", he said