Countdown to NATO summit begins

  • 2006-11-15
  • Staff and wire reports
RIGA - In less than two weeks, Riga will welcome some of the world's most esteemed leaders when the capital hosts its biggest international event yet 's the 2006 NATO summit.

U.S. President George W. Bush is scheduled to arrive in the Latvia on Nov. 28, together with a delegation of nearly 1,000 people.
Latvian Defense Ministry state secretary Edgars Rinkevics, who is in charge of the summit, said the U.S. delegation would be the largest attending the NATO conference, and that this was "no special secret."
Other delegations include as few as 10 members, Rinkevics said, adding that the total number of guests would fall around 2,500.
"We are expecting all the leaders of NATO states, from the U.S. president to Iceland's president," he said. Although Iceland is a NATO member, it does not have an army of its own.

After U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld announced his resignation earlier this month, it is not clear whether he still plans on attending the summit, Rinkevics said, noting that the issue would be solved through diplomatic channels.
Other prominent names on the summit list include U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and all three Baltic presidents, among others.
Meanwhile, Latvian authorities are in a flurry of last minute preparations, from setting up conference venues to ensuring final security matters.

According to Rinkevics, approximately 9,000 officers, including 2,000 NATO servicemen, will ensure security in Riga during the summit.

Organizers have said that, so far, all security preparations are on schedule.
Asked about the possibility of protests during the event, Rinkevics said that officials were unaware of any planned demonstrations.
"The situation is under control and security services are preparing for various scenarios," he reminded, adding that foreign partners have been keeping Latvian officials updated on potential protests.
Recent media reports have suggested that the Greenpeace environmentalist organization was planning to voice their opinion during the NATO summit in Riga, as it has done in previous years.

Yet Rinkevics pointed out that a demonstration by Greenpeace "definitely does not qualify as any kind of violent protest."
"Believe me, nobody at the Riga Airport has declared, 'I have come to Riga with a bagful of eggs to threaten NATO,"' the Defense Ministry secretary said.
All participating NATO delegations will be staying in Riga, with the exception of one, which has requested a hotel in Latvia's seaside resort of Jurmala.

"They expressed their wish in the summer, but I would like to hear what they will say now, in November," Rinkevics joked, declining to name the delegation. "But anyway, the sea is important to them."
The meeting of NATO heads-of-state and government will take place in Riga on Nov. 28-29.