* NATO must reassure new allies over collective security
* NATO must make populations feel more secure
* NATO starts work on new strategic concept
By David Brunnstrom
BRUSSELS, July 7 NATO must reassure new members they will be protected under the bloc's principle of collective security when it draws up a new mission statement, the military alliance's departing chief said on Tuesday.
Launching a year-long debate to formulate a new strategic concept to replace one dating back to 1999, Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said NATO must make populations feel more secure as well as providing security.
De Hoop Scheffer, who will be replaced in August by former Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, made clear this must involve a renewed commitment to Article 5 of NATO's founding treaty which says an attack on one or more member states will be considered an attack on them all.
"The new strategic concept should ... reassure our new allies that NATO takes its Article 5 collective defence commitment seriously; not just on paper, but through planning and exercises as well as having the necessary capabilities to call on in crisis situations," he said.
He was partly addressing the concerns of NATO members which were once part of the Soviet bloc and were alarmed by Russia's use of force against NATO aspirant Georgia during a five-day war last August.
De Hoop Scheffer said allies who felt more secure at home would be more likely to provide forces for NATO operations such as in Afghanistan.
Officials and former leaders of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation countries set out their visions for a new strategic concept at Tuesday's conference.
Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said it should take into account new types of threats in the post-Cold War era such as nuclear proliferation, bio- and cyberterrorism and the need to ensure stable access to energy supplies.
"Today the political dynamics are more fluid but more dangerous," she said. "Few developments would be more troubling than the emergence of new nuclear-weapons states."
She referred to North Korea, which has tested nuclear bombs, and Iran, which the West believes is trying to develop them.
Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, said the threat of nuclear terrorism "can impact on our very survival" but urged NATO in its new strategic statement to drop any reference to nuclear deterrence, saying it encouraged proliferation.
"You are sending a message to anyone around the world who reads your concept that they too need nuclear weapons," he said. "The idea that nuclear is the supreme guarantee should be dropped because it's absolutely the wrong message to the rest of the world."
ElBaradei questioned the consistency of policy by NATO, which has committed troops to Afghanistan but has been unable to supply a single helicopter to help refugees in Darfur. (email@example.com ; +32 2 287 6839; Reuters Messaging: firstname.lastname@example.org ))