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October 20, 2014, 6:23 am
970 WMAY News

Celebrating 50 Years, Springfield Commission on International Visitors Welcomes NATO Sec. Gen.

The Springfield Commission on International Visitors celebrates 50 years of hosting dignitaries from around the world here in the capital city.  The organization welcomed the half-century of serving the global community by inviting NATO Secretary General Anders Rasmussen to Springfield.


NATO Secretary General Anders Rasmussen
NATO Secretary General Anders Rasmussen

Mayor Mike Houston said that Springfield's efforts to bring people from around the world to capital city is part of the larger effort to get above isolationism.  He says it's about the free exchange of ideas.


Rasmussen addressed the group Friday at Erin's Pavilion on Southwind Park where he talked about his early years as part of a similar State Department program in 1982.  There he toured the United States to study our culture--local governments, elections, education, journalism, histories, etc.  


The former Danish Prime Minister also paid tribute to Andrew Tobin, a fallen soldier from Jacksonville who served alongside NATO in Afghanistan and was killed last year.  He also paid tribute to a Danish soldier who also was killed around the same time.  


In the aftermath of a rash of international forces being killed by Afghan security forces being trained by NATO, Rasmussen says that NATO has a timeline to hand over operations to Afghanistan's security forces by the end of 2014, but that their International Security Assistance Forces will stay behind.  This must be at the will of the Afghan government and the United Nations Security Council.  Rasmussen says he knows the Afghan government will invite NATO to conduct training operations after 2014.


As for critics of the rapid withdrawal, Rasmussen says that he believes drawing down the NATO presence in Afghanistan by the end of 2014 it is a realistic timetable.      


The United States, coalition countries, and NATO have been conducting military operations in Afghanistan for eleven years.


As for other heated international relationships, Rasmussen says he strongly condemns the crackdowns on civilian population in Syria.  He says that the Syrian government must accommodate the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people.  


As for the opposition forces in Syria, Rasmussen denies any NATO involvement and there are no intentions to be involved.  He believes there must be a political resolution in Syria and that NATO is not involved militarily but they will be there to protect Turkey, a NATO ally, if need be.  


When asked about the potential for conflicts to boil over between the western world and Iran, Rasmussen thinks Iran should stop their enrichment program and he hopes that sanctions and political pressures leads to a peaceful and political solution. 


The Springfield Commission on International Visitors has played host to thousands of visitors thru the years and works to help break down what organizers say are barriers to common understanding.  


This wasn't Rasmussen's first visit to the capital city.  Springfield is the city where his son, daughter-in-law, and two grand children live.  He says that he has jogged through many of Springfield beautiful communities and will always enjoy the view of Lake Springfield.  He also holds Abraham Lincoln in high regard.


Listen to NATO Secretary General Rasmussen's address to the Springfield Commission on International Visitors here.


Watch the the Secretary General answer questions from local radio media below or follow this link.  


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