Tue, Jun 29, 2004 - Page 1 News List

NATO leaders OK Iraqi training deal, Afghan security

TURKEY SUMMIT The package on helping Iraq is far less than the role the US had sought, which was scotched by France and Germany


NATO leaders yesterday put behind them bitter rows over Iraq and agreed to train the security forces of the new Baghdad government, just hours after it formally took office.

The vaguely worded deal was approved at a summit of the 26 leaders who have spent more than a year glowering at each other over the US-led invasion of Iraq, which was opposed by many European states, including France and Germany.

There were no details in the training deal, reflecting continued disputes over how overt a role the alliance should play in Iraq and a careful attempt to play up harmony in the alliance as it gears to face new security threats.

"There was the expected agreement, which related to training, and to training only," said German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. "Germany has an interest in a stabilized, a democratic Iraq."

The alliance also agreed to boost troop numbers in Afghanistan from 6,500 to 10,000 to bolster security during September elections.

"We have agreed today on a major expansion of NATO's role in Afghanistan," said NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer. "We made a commitment to help and we will meet it."

He has cited the alliance's plans to widen its peace mission as proof that it can project stability far from national borders. Critics say NATO is doing too little, too late.

De Hoop Scheffer has had to wheedle troops and costly equipment out of nations to expand the peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan and it was unclear which countries would contribute the extra 3,500 troops announced yesterday.

Iraq's new interim government formally took power from the US-led occupying authority two days ahead of schedule in an effort to thwart rising guerrilla activity.

"We need training and assistance inside Iraq," Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari told reporters after meeting British Prime Minister Tony Blair on the sidelines of the summit.

"We need to build our capabilities to rise to the challenge and we have asked NATO to take Iraq seriously."

The deal on helping Iraq falls far short of the boots-on-the-ground role Washington had sought for the alliance, which was scotched by French and German resistance.

While US officials have briefed reporters in glowing terms about the training agreement, France was distinctly cool.

French officials said it would be a job for allies, not the alliance as a whole, and there would be "no NATO flag" in Iraq.

Leftist protesters objecting to NATO hurled paving stones and petrol bombs at riot police yesterday, but were kept far from the summit center.

Police responded with baton charges, tear gas and water cannon. Around 30 people were reported injured.

In a separate protest, Greenpeace activists dangling from a suspension bridge over the Bosphorus strait unfurled a 30m banner showing a dove of peace with a nuclear missile in its beak and the phrase "Nukes out of NATO."

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