Thu, May 08, 2003 - Page 1 News List

US begins to assign areas of control to several allies in Iraq

PIECES OF PIE American troops will control Baghdad, Poland will be responsible for the north, and Britain and Spain will be in charge of the south

THE GUARDIAN , MADRID AND WASHINGTON

Officials from the US, Britain and eight allies as diverse as Ukraine and Honduras will meet in London tomorrow to carve Iraq into zones of control before the deployment of a multinational stabilization force.

Initial plans suggest that Britain will head a multinational brigade in southern Iraq that would include troops from Spain and Latin America.

US troops would control Baghdad, and Poland would be responsible for the north, in command of Danish and possibly German contingents, according to Polish officials. They have also said a fourth zone might be added, but it is unclear which nation would run it.

As negotiations over the stabilization force continued in Washington yesterday, US President George W. Bush appointed a new civilian administrator for Iraq. Paul Bremer, a diplomat specializing in counter-terrorism, will be in charge of the Pentagon's envoy for reconstruction and humanitarian assistance, said Jay Garner, a former general.

Spanish Defense Minister Federico Trillo said 1,500 of his country's troops would operate in the British area that he defined as "zone 4 south."

Spanish defense officials said tomorrow's meeting would include Spain, Poland, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Denmark, the Netherlands and Honduras, to discuss the composition of the stabilization force which would keep the peace during the transition to a new government.

Polish Foreign Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz has said a final meeting to decide the make-up of the force will take place in Warsaw on May 22.

"The idea is to have all the countries ready to engage there by the end of this month," Cimoszewicz said.

After meeting US Secretary of State Colin Powell in Washington yesterday, he urged Germany and other European states to contribute to Iraq's stabilization and reconstruction.

Spanish newspapers quoted defense ministry officials yesterday saying that Honduras and Nicaragua had offered troops for the "Spanish brigade" only if Spain paid for them. Chile and Argentina said they would take part in a UN force only, the reports said.

The diversity of the nations meeting in London reflects the difficulties Washington has faced trying to gain support for its occupation of postwar Iraq. Few countries with experience in the Middle East are on board, and no Islamic countries are represented.

Most of the willing are relatively impoverished states eager to enhance their relationship with the US but unable to pay their way.

Cimoszewicz was in Washington yesterday to discuss the Polish contribution. Polish Defense Minister Jerzy Szmajdzinski said he had received an assurance from US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld that the US would help raise money from international donors to cover the cost of about 1,500 Polish troops and a headquarters staff. Szmajdzinski estimated the cost at US$50 million for six months.

Poland's Deputy Defense Minister Janusz Zemke, said that the Polish troops would be initially stationed in Iraq for a year and then rotated every six months.

He said they would play an important role protecting energy facilities, telecommunication hubs and transport arteries. Troops from a chemical defense regiment have already been mobilized and are expected to leave for Iraq soon.

Zemke said that up to 11 European countries had expressed an interest in taking part. "We are also getting signs that certain Asian countries, for example India, Pakistan and the Philippines, would be prepared to send troops," Zemke said.

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