For NATO, a first: 5 female defense ministers

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Photo - From left, defense ministers, Albania's Mimi Kodheli, Netherland's Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, Germany's Ursula von der Leyen, Norway's Ine Marie Eriksen Soreide and Italy's Roberta Pinotti pose for photographers prior to the start of a meeting of defense ministers of the North Atlantic Council at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014. Frustrated with his Afghan counterpart, U.S. President Barack Obama is ordering the Pentagon to accelerate planning for a full U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan by the end of this year. But Obama is also holding out hope that Afghanistan's next president may eventually sign a stalled security agreement that could prevent the U.S. from having to take that step. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
From left, defense ministers, Albania's Mimi Kodheli, Netherland's Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, Germany's Ursula von der Leyen, Norway's Ine Marie Eriksen Soreide and Italy's Roberta Pinotti pose for photographers prior to the start of a meeting of defense ministers of the North Atlantic Council at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014. Frustrated with his Afghan counterpart, U.S. President Barack Obama is ordering the Pentagon to accelerate planning for a full U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan by the end of this year. But Obama is also holding out hope that Afghanistan's next president may eventually sign a stalled security agreement that could prevent the U.S. from having to take that step. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
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BRUSSELS (AP) — NATO has registered a first in its long history, with five women among the defense ministers who turned up Wednesday to attend a policy-making meeting at the alliance's headquarters.

The latest woman to join the ministerial ranks was Italy's Roberta Pinotti, who was sworn in Saturday as her country's first female defense minister. The 52-year-old served as an undersecretary for defense in the just-ended government of Enrico Letta. First elected to Parliament in 2001, she is now a senator. She began her political career two decades ago as a lower-ranking official in what was then Italy's Communist Party.

Pinotti joined Albania's Mimi Kodheli, Germany's Ursula von der Leyen, Norway's Ine Marie Eriksen Soreide and Jeanine Hennis-Plasshaert of the Netherlands. A NATO official said the five constituted the largest number of women defense ministers to serve at one time since the 28-nation alliance was founded in 1949.

Before getting down to business with U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and their other male colleagues Wednesday afternoon, the women posed together for news photographers. At first, there were just four of them — until Soreide of Norway realized the Albanian minister was missing. Kodheli was quickly called over, and the picture snapping resumed.

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Frances D'Emilio in Rome contributed.

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