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The ministerial meeting is intended to pave the way for the alliance’s summit in Chicago in May. Ministers also are scheduled to discuss plans to deploy a ballistic missile defense system in Europe and maintaining the alliance’s capabilities at a time of austerity and defense cuts in both the United States and Europe.

A NATO diplomat said the allies had decided to locate the headquarters for the missile shield at a U.S. air base in Ramstein, Germany. The official spoke on condition of anonymity since he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Associated Press writer David Stringer in London contributed to this report.