STAVANGER, Norway – Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld (search) and his Norwegian counterpart on Wednesday signed an agreement allowing the U.S. military to continue storing equipment in Norway.
The agreement allows for different kinds of U.S. Marine Corps (search) equipment to be stored than the weapons and other material that has been stored in Norway since 1981.
It will be stored at two locations rather than the five sites used previously.
Norwegian Defense Minister Kristen Krohn Devold (search) said the equipment will allow the United States to help defend Norway if necessary and for U.S. forces to train alongside the Norwegian military.
Rumsfeld and Devold also toured an underground bunker where the Norwegian military has its headquarters alongside a NATO training facility.
Fifty Iraqi military and civilian officials have been trained here in courses designed to increase cooperation between security forces and civilian authorities in Iraq. Both Rumsfeld and Devold praised that training and said it would continue.
Norwegian officials also discussed with Rumsfeld several military issues involving Norway's far north, which borders Russia. Norwegian officials said they patrol the area, which is heavily used by Russian oil tankers and international fishing vessels.
At a news conference, Rumsfeld was asked about criticism of the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and defended the military's operation of the prison. He said he did not know of anyone in the Bush administration who is considering closing it.
"They provide a stable and secure and safe environment," he said. "Information gained from detainees there has saved the lives of people from our country and from other countries."
Rumsfeld arrived here Tuesday when he, Devold and their aides began their meetings Tuesday night on a cruise in a fijord aboard a Norwegian coast guard vessel.
A handful of protesters were among people watching Rumsfeld's arrival, including some carrying a banner that called Rumsfeld a war criminal.
The Pentagon began storing equipment in Norway during the Cold War, when Norway's position bordering the Soviet Union made it a key ally. In those days, plans called for the equipment to be used in case of a Soviet invasion of Norway.
The Marine equipment had been designed to supply a heavy infantry brigade with about 13,000 Marines for up to 30 days. That will be adjusted to allow for extra flexibility, but still be available for use to defend Norway or in NATO missions.
The U.S. already has used equipment stored in Norway in the Balkans, Afghanistan and Iraq.
Norway has 369 troops in Afghanistan, mostly in the NATO-led international security force headquartered in Kabul. There are 15 Norwegian military personnel in Iraq, mostly officers specializing in engineering.
After their news conference Wednesday, Rumsfeld and Devold were flying together to Brussels for a meeting of NATO defense ministers.