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U.S. 'Disappointed' By Manila's Iraq Decision

Iraqi and U.S. forces guard a Baghdad checkpoint (file photo) 13 July 2004 -- A U.S. State Department spokesman said today that officials are "disappointed" by the Philippine government's announcement that it plans to withdraw its troops quickly from Iraq following demands by kidnappers holding a Filipino.

Spokesman Richard Boucher said such a move would send the "wrong message" to the kidnappers.

"First of all, we certainly noted the remarks," Boucher said. "We're disappointed to see remarks like this at a time when Iraq is fighting for stability and peace."

It was unclear from Manila's statements whether the announcement means officials will advance the return of a 51-strong Philippine deployment from Iraq, which was already planned for 20 August.

Meanwhile, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari today urged NATO to act quickly on a decision taken in early July to provide training and equipment for the nascent Iraqi army.

NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said discussions are continuing within NATO over whether the alliance as a whole can train Iraqi forces in Iraq.

Iraqi Interior Ministry spokesman Colonel Adnan Abdul Rhaman said Iraqi police yesterday detained more than 500 suspected criminals in a coordinated series of raids Baghdad.

(compiled from wire reports)