Sun, Jul 22, 2007 - Page 7 News List

UAE may send military to serve in Afghanistan

AFP , OTTAWA

The United Arab Emirates is planning to send troops to Afghanistan to fight alongside Canadians at Ottawa's behest to put a "Muslim face" on the NATO-led coalition, media reported on Friday.

The Toronto Star, citing unnamed sources, said Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government had been urging the tiny Arab nation to contribute soldiers and equipment to help stabilize war-torn Afghanistan.

Canadian authorities were not immediately available to provide comment.

If the report is accurate, the Afghanistan deployment is believed to be a first for an Arab nation and a diplomatic coup for Canada.

The UAE was one of only three countries that recognized the hard-line Taliban government that seized control of most of Afghanistan in 1996 and was forced out in a US-led invasion in late 2001.

The Toronto daily said the UAE tactical force would be small and mostly symbolic, and serve under Canadian commanders once they arrived on the field in Arghanistan.

The UAE could also send a variety of machinery to assist in teh effort. Possibilties include four tanks, several armored reconnaissance vehicles, two self-propelled 155mm guns as well as a detachment of unmanned aerial vehicles, according to a military briefing note obtained by the newspaper.

"The UAE is capable of bringing considerable financial support to development projects and would provide a Muslim face to the International Security Assistance Force operations, providing a counterpoint to insurgent rhetoric," the note said.

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