Washington, 11 June 2004 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. President George W. Bush said yesterday it would be unrealistic to expect more NATO countries to provide troops in Iraq. But he does hope to see a NATO role in helping train Iraqi security forces.
Speaking at a news conference concluding the Group of Eight (G-8) summit in the U.S. state of Georgia, Bush said: "I don't expect more troops from NATO to be offered up. That's an unrealistic expectation. Nobody is suggesting that. What we are suggesting is for NATO perhaps to help train [Iraqi security forces]. Now, that will come at the request of the Iraqi government."
The annual summits of the G-8 leaders usually focus on economics. But this year, security in Iraq was the chief topic at the meeting of the seven leading industrial democracies plus Russia.
Besides the United States, only three G-8 countries have forces in Iraq: Britain, Italy, and Japan. The other four members -- Canada, France, Germany, and Russia -- opposed the Iraq war from the start.
Despite a UN Security Council resolution, passed unanimously on 8 June to support Iraq's new interim government, there was no indication that these four countries would change their minds about sending troops.
During the three-day summit, French President Jacques Chirac questioned the need for more troops from NATO countries. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said he would not block such a move, but stressed that his country would contribute no troops itself.
The role of the alliance may become more clear by the time NATO holds its annual summit at the end of June in Istanbul.
With no greater military contribution expected from NATO countries, Bush was asked at the news conference if he was troubled that the United States was bearing virtually the entire responsibility for security in Iraq.
Bush replied that, with sovereignty imminent -- and with outside help -- the responsibility will be Iraq's: "There will be an Iraqi face on the security of Iraq. The Iraqis will secure their own country, and we are there to help them do so. And we [G-8 leaders] had great discussions today about how to help Iraq."
Bush also was asked about a memo produced by the U.S. Justice Department suggesting that a U.S. president might be immune to U.S. laws and international treaties barring torture of prisoners being interrogated during wartime.
Bush replied to the reporter that he could not recall ever seeing the document, but stressed that he was clear in his instructions to all those responsible for interrogations.
"The authorization I issued, David, was that anything we did would conform to U.S. law and would be consistent with international treaty obligations. That's the message I gave our people," Bush said.
The G-8 summit also dealt with a U.S. initiative to promote democratic and social reforms in the Middle East, North Africa, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.
All eight leaders agreed on the plan after European leaders adjusted it to ensure that each target country would be approached individually.
On other matters, the summit members agreed to create a new rapid-response force of 75,000 peacekeeping troops to help in war-prone regions of the developing world. They also supported a U.S. plan that would speed the development of an HIV/AIDS vaccine.
On economic issues, the G-8 leaders agreed to a two-year extension of the countries' debt-relief program for the world's poorest countries. The plan had been expected to expire at the end of 2004.
They also will seek to ease Iraq's $120 billion in debt, which is owed to a group of wealthy creditor countries known as the Paris Club. But the eight leaders did not agree on how much of that debt should be forgiven.