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Iraq: U.S. Will Seek Help From Allies During NATO Summit

U.S. President George W. Bush has said he wants the NATO military alliance to help in Iraq. The U.S.-led coalition is preparing to hand over sovereignty to the Iraqi interim government in five days. In the meantime, Bush will be pressing for NATO to help Baghdad at an alliance summit in Istanbul. But for now, NATO's potential role in war-torn Iraq remains unclear.

Washington, 25 June 2004 (RFE/RL) -- George Bush has tried to be realistic about what NATO can do in Iraq.

At the conclusion of the G-8 summit in the U.S. state of Georgia earlier this month, he 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."

Certainly the United States expects some NATO help, especially now that interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad al-Allawi has written to the leaders of its member states asking for training and technical help.

Secretary of State Colin Powell this week indicated that the United States expects Iraq will have what he called "new partners."

At the White House on 24 June, Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, told reporters that Bush will waste no time at next week's NATO summit in getting help for both Iraq and Afghanistan.

"The first thing that the president will ask is that NATO fully generate its capabilities to support the mission in Afghanistan -- that has been a matter of concern," Rice said. "And then [he will ask NATO] to look at what can be done in Iraq to answer the request of Prime Minister al-Allawi for NATO's help -- technical assistance, I think he called it -- as well as, perhaps, help in training. Because the Iraqis have been very focused on getting their own capabilities up and running.”
"Many of the members of NATO would not be free and at liberty themselves had it not been for the sacrifices of others, including sacrifices of the United States." -- Condoleezza Rice

Rice said NATO already is doing a lot for Iraq, noting that 16 NATO countries have forces there. But she stressed that the Bush administration believes the alliance and its individual member states can and should do more.

However, Rice said, it is not yet known which NATO countries will contribute, and how they will do so.

"I don't know how many member states can actually participate in the training," Rice said. "But we would hope that this would be something that would be done as a NATO contribution, that the alliance [as a whole] would be contributing -- even though, obviously, a lot of the training will have to be done by member states. NATO doesn't have a multinational training facility. A lot will have to be done by the member states."

Rice said it is important for Iraq to take control of its own security, with police and armed forces, but it cannot do so without help in training.

And training, she said, takes time -- meaning it is essential for NATO to respond quickly, especially as violence attacks increase ahead of the 30 June transfer.

Rice said NATO countries -- especially the newer members who were controlled by the Soviet empire only 15 years ago -- faces what she called a "historic opportunity" to help a country in need.

"NATO needs to respond to the Iraqis' request. This is about the spread of freedom and liberty. That's what NATO has stood for from the very beginning. It is consistent with NATO's values. Many of the members of NATO would not be free and at liberty themselves had it not been for the sacrifices of others, including sacrifices of the United States," Rice said.

But with just days until the sovereignty transfer, it is still not clear which countries will help, and to what extent.

NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said on 24 June in Brussels that this will be the subject of talks between the Atlantic alliance and Allawi's government.

"My impression is that it might very well be possible that allied leaders decide in Istanbul on some form of training [for Iraq's security forces]," de Hoop Scheffer said. "I mean [for that] to be worked out, of course, in close consultation with the Iraqi government."

Meanwhile, security for the summit is in question after bombs killed four people and wounded 18 in Istanbul on 24 June, and a similar explosion in Ankara that injured three people, including two police officers.

The Ankara explosion was outside the hotel where Bush will be staying prior to traveling to Istanbul. But the White House said Bush will not change his travel plans, and Turkish officials said it is prepared for such attacks.

De Hoop Scheffer said he was not concerned about proceeding with the summit.

"I have full confidence in our Turkish hosts, that they have taken and are taking all the measures necessary to ensure not only a politically interesting and good summit, but also [one that is good] from the point of view of security," de Hoop Scheffer said.

The 24 June blasts were small. But bombings in Istanbul last November killed more than 60 people. Those attacks were said to have been carried out by militant Islamic groups inspired by Al-Qaeda. Turkish security officials recently have rounded up dozens of suspected militants in advance of the summit.

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