Wed, Nov 12, 2003 - Page 6 News List

Rumsfeld wants `a lot' of coalition troops in Iraq

RISING DEATH TOLL The US defense secretary said the US is seeking soldiers from 14 countries in addition to the 32 others that have already provided some troops

AFP , BAGHDAD AND WASHINGTON

An Iraqi family watch a US soldier walking past their home as he and other members of his unit completed a patrol in downtown Tikrit, north of Baghdad, on Monday.

PHOTO: AFP

US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld called Monday for "a lot of troops" from other countries to help stabilize Iraq, after the deaths of a US soldier and a Kurdish fighter working with Iraq's border guard.

Three US soldiers were wounded early Monday when a roadside bomb exploded by a military convoy in the northern city of Mosul, police said, although the army had no immediate confirmation.

The US soldier was killed in a rocket-propelled grenade attack late Sunday south of Baghdad, the coalition said Monday.

The death raised to 148 the number of US soldiers killed in combat in Iraq since May 1, when Washington declared major hostilities over.

Iraq's northern border with Turkey was also tense as US troops and Iraqi Kurdish border guards clashed with suspected Turkish Kurd rebels over the weekend.

A local Kurdish fighter working for the Iraqi border guard was killed and 13 others were wounded in the confrontation near the Turkish frontier, a US army spokeswoman said Monday.

Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul identified the gunmen as members of the Turkish Kurdish rebel Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). Gul has been lobbying for the US to move against the PKK guerrillas.

He billed the shootout as the first armed confrontation between US forces and the Turkish Kurd separatist movement.

The US army, however, said it was not clear who the attackers were.

Meanwhile, the US-backed mayor of the Shiite-populated Baghdad district of Sadr City, was also shot and killed in an altercation with American troops, the US military announced Monday.

The US Central Command said the clash, which is now being investigated, took place at the building housing the district advisory council, of which Mohannad Ghazi al Kaabi was chairman.

"This incident reportedly occurred as a result of a confrontation following Mohannad's refusal to follow instructions from the on-site security official, who was enforcing security procedures stemming from recent car bombing incidents in accordance with standard rules of engagement," the command said in a statement.

A shot fired during the altercation wounded the mayor in the lower extremities, the military said.

Although he was given immediate medical assistance on the scene of the incident and quickly taken to a US military hospital, Kaabi was pronounced dead upon arrival, according to the statement.

The command did not reveal who fired the shot. Nor did it offer any details about the nature of Kaabi's wounds.

In Washington, Rumsfeld told reporters the US is seeking troops in larger numbers from 14 countries in addition to 32 others that have already provided some troops to the coalition forces in Iraq.

"I would like to see a lot of troops from other countries. And I'll tell you why: I think it's important for other countries to have a commitment to Iraq, and to the success in Iraq," he told reporters at the Foreign Press Center.

"But we don't want it to be countries that don't want to be there, or countries that don't want larger numbers there. Because we feel people ought to do that which they believe is in their best interest," he said.

There are currently about 22,000 troops from countries other than the US in Iraq, grouped in two multinational divisions in the southern part of the country. About 130,000 US troops are in the country.

But as attacks on US forces have mounted, Washington has had trouble convincing other countries to come forward with more troops.

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