Berlin won’t block biggerrole for NATO in Iraq

24th June 2004, Comments 0 comments

25 June 2004, BERLIN - The German government said Friday it would not block any decision at next week’s NATO summit to give the Alliance a bigger Iraq role, but a spokesman stressed Berlin would not send troops to Baghdad.

25 June 2004

BERLIN - The German government said Friday it would not block any decision at next week’s NATO summit to give the Alliance a bigger Iraq role, but a spokesman stressed Berlin would not send troops to Baghdad.

Germany, which led European opposition to the Iraq War, on Thursday said it expected NATO leaders meeting in Istanbul next week to approve providing training for Iraqi security forces.

Officials said Germany would assist in such troop training programmes - but only if they took place outside of Iraq.

”The red line” is no troops in Iraq, said Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s chief spokesman Bela Anda.

Anda said Germany remained skeptical about giving NATO a bigger Iraqi role because the Alliance’s US leadership meant it would be met with a great deal of “psychological opposition” among Iraqis.

Germany, however, would not block a bigger NATO mission, Anda stressed.

”We will not hinder NATO and other NATO states if they to take a role in Iraq,” he said.

At present NATO is limited to providing logistical aid for the Polish sector in Iraq even though 15 NATO states have forces operating in the country.

However, top German officials are predicting that few major decisions will be taken at the summit.

"It's a summit from which we do not expect any spectacular results," admitted a senior government official, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

North Atlantic Treaty Organisation leaders, including US President George W. Bush, will meet in the Turkish metropole straddling Europe and Asia for the two-day summit beginning Monday.

Apart from Iraq, headline issues include Afghanistan, the Balkans and developing NATO's global crisis reaction force, officials said.

The packed summit schedule includes separate meetings with leaders of Russia and the Ukraine as well as 27 NATO partner states from the Middle East and Central Asia, including Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

But while long on themes, German officials said the summit would be mainly a "working meeting" and that only modest decisions were expected in the key crisis theatres of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Ironically, the officials scarcely mentioned moves much heralded earlier this year for a NATO engagement aimed at what had been dubbed the Greater Middle East.

A watered-down Mideast declaration, adopted by the Group of Eight (G8) industrial nations earlier this month at their Sea Island, Georgia summit calls for dialogue but stresses reform can only come from within the region.

German officials said it was now up to individual Middle East states to make requests to NATO for security assistance.

"There won't be any collective mission. It's not NATO that will make an offer. Instead there will be tailor-made solutions for each partner," stressed a German official.

This seems a far cry from calls last winter by US and German leaders, including Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, for a huge reform effort in an arc of nations from Morocco to Afghanistan.

On Iraq, NATO leaders - meeting on the eve of the 30 June handover of power to a provisional Baghdad government - will likely follow calls by President Bush and give approval for NATO to be used for training Iraqi troops, the officials predicted.

"A central point in stabilising Iraq is making the Iraqis capable of ensuring their own security," said an official.

But the official underlined that Berlin, which strongly opposed the Iraq war, would not send troops to Iraq and would only take part in troop training programmes outside the country.

German experts have so far trained about 220 Iraqi police officers in courses run in the United Arab Emirates.

Germany has said it will not block a bigger NATO role in Iraq but the official said Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder remained skeptical of any big NATO mission in Baghdad.

This, all taken, would be a much less ambitious NATO mission than had been initially sought by Bush.

The US leader was forced to scale back calls for NATO to take over military operations in a sector of Iraq after France, a leading anti-Iraq war member of NATO and the G8, firmly opposed the move.

Some 15 of NATO's 26 nations have sent troops to Iraq but the alliance is currently limited to giving logistical aid to the Polish sector in Iraq.

Turning to Afghanistan, NATO leaders are likely to approve creating an Afghan crisis reaction force and will expand regional rebuilding teams in the country as part of gearing up security for Afghan elections due this autumn.

"We will have to deploy a series of mobile NATO companies to intervene where there are difficulties," said an official.

But the official declined to say how big such NATO reaction forces would be and admitted that difficulties in winning fresh commitments meant troops would be drawn from soldiers already stationed in the country.

"It's no secret - I don't want to hide the fact that the force generation process has been very difficult in Afghanistan," said the official.

Germany has reached its limit of 2,250 troops for the NATO-led Afghan security force (ISAF) as mandated by parliament and cannot send any more, the official stressed.

There are presently about 6,500 ISAF troops in Afghanistan and about 20,000 U.S.-led forces fighting Taliban remnants and al-Qaeda insurgents mainly in the southern parts of the country.

In another move, the NATO summit will likely approve creation of at least two more Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs), the officials said.

This would raise the total number of PRTs to 14 and five of these will be stationed in the northern parts of the country and at least four are expected to come under NATO-ISAF control, said officials.

Afghanistan is preparing for presidential elections in the autumn but the officials noted that given the overall security situation parliamentary elections might have to be delayed.

Leaders of NATO’s 26 member states hold their summit in Istanbul 28 to 29 June.


Subject: German news

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