Wed, Jul 14, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Iraq asks NATO to hurry training

REUTERS , BRUSSELS

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari appealed to NATO yesterday to speed up promised training for his country's security forces and provide border security support and military equipment as well.

"We need this training you promised us in Istanbul to be carried out as soon as possible. We need it, in fact we are in a race against time and it's a matter of urgency," Zebari told a news conference after meeting ambassadors of the 26-nation alliance.

The US-dominated alliance agreed at a summit in Turkey last month to help train the interim Iraqi government's security forces, who are facing a violent post-war insurgency.

However, the wording of the summit agreement was left vague because France resisted a US push for the alliance to be a central agency for training inside the country.

No decisions have been made yet on whether the training will be a collective mission under NATO's banner or whether the alliance will simply help coordinate individual allies' efforts.

A NATO delegation visited Iraq last week to establish what Baghdad requires, and the alliance will decide before the end of this month what its mission will entail.

US Ambassador to NATO Nicholas Burns said after the meeting there was a positive response from allies to Zebari's call for a speedy and collective alliance mission.

"I assured him of full US support to create a NATO training effort on the ground as soon as possible," he said.

NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said the alliance was looking at a range of training options: collective, bilateral, both in-country and elsewhere and help with the establishment of an Iraq-wide command and control capability.

"These efforts and the results of these efforts must be visible very quickly indeed," he told the news conference with Zebari, adding that he was preparing a report on what other support the alliance could offer the interim Baghdad government.

De Hoop Scheffer declined to give details of further support he may propose, but Zebari said he wanted NATO to provide military equipment, border control back-up and security for both UN premises and personnel involved in running elections.

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