Europe correspondent Emma Alberici and wires
Story Added : 04th October 2010
The NATO Secretary General has praised Australia's mission in Afghanistan and spoken with Prime Minister Julia Gillard of closer ties between Australia and the security bloc.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen met the Prime Minister in Brussels and thanked her for Australia's contribution to the Afghan army trust fund.
The NATO Secretary General congratulated Australia's efforts to support the Afghan National Security Forces.
"Australia's contribution of $150 million to the Afghan Army trust fund making it the leading contributor is highly welcome," he said.
Ms Gillard has come to Brussels after a brief stop in Afghanistan.
She also confirmed that she had asked Opposition Leader Tony Abbott to join her on her visit to the Australian troops but he chose instead to attend the British conservative party's conference in Birmingham England.
Ms Gillard cautiously welcomed the idea of deepening relations with NATO, as the alliance mulls closer ties with its Afghan war allies.
"Australia will look at being engaged with NATO in a flexible way in the future," she said.
Mr Rasmussen said he had shown Ms Gillard a draft of NATO's new "strategic concept" which leaders of the 28-nation alliance will adopt at a summit in Lisbon on November 19-20.
The NATO chief said a key element of the concept will be "a fresh approach to NATO partnerships with countries around the globe."
"Australia will have the opportunity to deepen its relations with NATO," he said.
Australia has a military representative at NATO and the Australian military is formally consulted by the alliance on operations Australian troops participate in.
Rasmussen wants to tighten NATO's relations with key partners such as Australia, South Korea, Japan, in the face of global threats such as terrorism and cyber attacks.
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