A Nato soldier returns fire as others run for cover during a firefight with insurgents in Helmand province, southern Afghanistan. Image Credit: AP

Manama: Nato would consider Iran a threat if it acquired nuclear capability, the organisation's Secretary-General said.

"While Nato as such is not involved in the Iran issue, we support international endeavours to find a political and diplomatic solution. But if Iran at a certain stage actually acquires nuclear capability, then we would consider it a threat against the alliance," Anders Fogh Rasmussen told Gulf News.

"This is also the reason we are considering the establishment of a missile defence system that we can start to deploy by 2011."

Missile defence system

The system will be set up in Europe, and will cover all allies of Nato, the world's largest military alliance.

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"The Americans are of course in the lead, but according to their new approach and plans, the missile defence system will be developed within a Nato framework," he said.

Rasmussen who was elected to the top Nato post last year, said he blamed the Taliban in Afghanistan for causing the death of many innocent civilians.

"I have to say that a huge majority of the casualties are caused by the Taliban, and I base this on statistics from the United Nations. We know that the Taliban use innocent civilians, women and children, as human shields," he said.

The presence of Muslim and Arab troops in Afghanistan is crucial for the alliance. "They play a very important role militarily and on the humanitarian level, financially and also as far as cultural and religious aspects are concerned."

"I do believe that active participation of soldiers with a Muslim background makes it visible that what is going on in Afghanistan is not a fight against religion, but against extremism and terrorism," he said.

Rasmussen, who as prime minister of Denmark during the issue over the controversial cartoons waded into controversy with Muslim ambassadors, said that "religion and faith should not be divisive and, on the contrary, they should promote peace, forgiveness, mercy and tolerance."