Brussels: The latest developments in the Arab countries and ways to enhance relations with Arab capitals will figure high on the agenda of the foreign ministers of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) and their partner countries at their meeting on Wednesday in Brussels.

"Nato has many partners in the region through the Mediterranean Dialogue and the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative, and at this meeting ministers will look at how to take those relationships forward," a Nato official said ahead of the annual meeting and the discussions on relationships with partners in the Middle East and North Africa.

The Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI) was launched at the Alliance's Summit in the Turkish city in June 2004 to contribute to long-term global and regional security by offering Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries practical bilateral security cooperation with Nato.

Kuwait joined the ICI in December 2004, followed by Bahrain and Qatar in February 2005 and the UAE in June 2005.

Arab countries in the Mediterranean Dialogue initiative launched in 1994 include Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt and Jordan.

Nato officials said that they think Libya is likely to request to join the Mediterranean Dialogue.

"Once the Libyans make the request, Nato will look into it and will make a decision based on its merit," a senior Nato official who did not wish to be identified said.

The Alliance this year was mandated to protect civilians and specific areas from deadly attacks by the supporters of the Libyan long time leader Moammar Gaddafi who was killed in October.

The foreign ministers will also review at their two-day meeting in the Belgian capital Nato's current operations and preparations for the summit in Chicago on May 20-21, 2012.

They will discuss the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) operation in Afghanistan and will review the situation in Kosovo, following the violent events of the autumn and the recent agreement between Belgrade and Pristina on the management of integrated crossings, Nato said.

Progress in the development of Nato's missile defence system, as well as the offer of cooperation made to Russia in November 2010 at the Lisbon summit will also be on the agenda of the annual meeting. Nato officials said that the Alliance remained committed to the dialogue with Russia on this issue.

On Thursday, ministers will meet in the Nato-Russia Council to evaluate progress in mutual cooperation, in view of the decision taken at the Lisbon summit to "work towards a true strategic partnership with Russia." They will also discuss the potential for developing cooperation with Russia on missile defence.

According to the officials, Nato will reiterate its intention to move forward with plans to construct a European missile defense system that will protect Europe against feared ballistic missile strikes.

Russia has repeatedly said that it had concerns the planned shield could target its long-range nuclear-armed missiles, but Nato officials have insisted that the defenses were not directed against Moscow.

The ministers will hold a meeting with counterparts from contributors to the ISAF operation in Afghanistan.

"As Afghan forces begin to take the lead responsibility for security, ministers will examine how to put the Enduring Partnership agreed with the Afghan government into practice," officials said.

Nato said that it would pull out of Afghanistan by 2014, but insisted that it would not "abandon" the Afghanis.

On Monday, a conference brought together representatives from 86 countries and 15 international organizations in Bonn to agree on a road map of support beyond the withdrawal of US and other international forces from Afghanistan pledged to stand by the country in the 10 years after the pullout in exchange for good governance.

Afghanistan told the gathering that it would need $10 billion annually over the next decade to shore up security and reconstruction.

Iran used the conference to reiterate its objections to Nato keeping forces in Afghanistan after 2014.

"Certain Western countries seek to extend their military presence in Afghanistan beyond 2014 by maintaining their military bases there," Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran's foreign minister, said. "We deem such an approach to be contradictory to efforts to sustain stability and security in Afghanistan."