NATO leaders agree to beefup Iraqi military training

22nd February 2005, Comments 0 comments

22 February 2005, BRUSSELS - Leaders of all 26 NATO nations agreed on Tuesday to join an expanded alliance Iraqi security training mission and pledged to extend the military organisation's clout with a new political mission. An upbeat US President George W. Bush welcomed NATO's new mission in Iraq, saying: "Every contribution matters. Twenty-six nations sitting around the table said it is vital to be in Iraq."

22 February 2005

BRUSSELS - Leaders of all 26 NATO nations agreed on Tuesday to join an expanded alliance Iraqi security training mission and pledged to extend the military organisation's clout with a new political mission.

An upbeat US President George W. Bush welcomed NATO's new mission in Iraq, saying: "Every contribution matters. Twenty-six nations sitting around the table said it is vital to be in Iraq."

NATO is running an Iraqi armed forces officer training programme - but given sharp differences over the Iraq war some countries such as Germany and France are opting to run programmes only outside Iraq.

Some NATO states are sending instructors to Baghdad but others are providing either equipment or funding for the operation.

This relatively modest mission is hardly the troop reinforcement that Washington has been looking for.

But Bush, who is on a four-day European tour to heal wounds caused by Iraq war differences, chose to put a positive spin on the NATO initiative.

"We liberated Iraq. That decision has been made - it's time to move on," said Bush.

The US leader said NATO remained the cornerstone of transatlantic relations, adding: "NATO is the most successful alliance in the history of the world."

Bush firmly backed NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer who is calling for the Alliance to be given a far bigger political role in global security issues.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder repeated his calls for revamped NATO structures to take account of Europe's growing clout.

But in an apparent toning down of his controversial demand earlier this month for a European Union-led transatlantic dialogue, the Chancellor said NATO's Scheffer should be in charge of the reform effort.

Turning to China, Bush expressed "deep concern" over European plans to lift a 15-year-old arms embargo against Beijing, saying the move would destabilise the region.

"The transfer of weapons would be transfer of technology which would change the balance of power with Taiwan," said Bush.

The US President said he would listen to European proposals for a code of conduct on arms sales to China but warned that the last word on its acceptance lay with the US Congress.

Bush repeatedly praised the "vitality" of NATO's new members from eastern Europe and praised Ukraine's peaceful democratic revolution.

Earlier, Ukrainian President Viktor Yuschenko called on NATO leaders to admit his country to both the Alliance and the EU.

The newly elected, pro-Western Yuschenko told the summit that his government's goal was clear: "We want to see Ukraine integrated into the EU and North Atlantic Alliance."

Scheffer hailed Ukraine's "orange revolution" as a demonstration of the democratic principles underpinning NATO.

But he declined to set any timetable for NATO membership and stressed Ukraine's still-needed reforms would be difficult to realise.

Scheffer announced NATO would give Ukraine EUR 25 million in aid to destroy Cold War stockpiles of 133,000 tonnes of munitions, 1.5 million small arms and light weapons as well as Man Portable Air Defence Systems (MANPADS).

"This will have a real benefit for public safety in Ukraine," said Scheffer.

At a news briefing after the meeting, Yuschenko confirmed his plans to pull out the 1,600 Ukrainian troops serving in Iraq. He said the Ukrainian public was opposed to the troop presence.

Later on Tuesday, Bush is due to hold unprecedented talks with all 25 EU leaders. The US president will be briefed on EU internal developments and key issues such as diplomatic moves aimed at winning pledges from Iran that it will not develop nuclear weapons.

Security was intense for the Bush visit in Brussels with parts of downtown closed off to traffic and 2,500 police and special forces deployed throughout the Belgian capital.  

DPA

Subject: German news

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