NATO training missions in Iraq expected soon, Bush aide says

Posted in Europe , United States | 28-Jun-04 | Author: Brian Knowlton| Source: International Herald Tribune

President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair (L) shake hands at the end of a joint news conference during the NATO Summit in Istanbul, Turkey, June 28, 2004.
WASHINGTON On the eve of a NATO summit meeting in Istanbul, a top Bush administration official said she expected alliance member countries to begin sending training missions to Iraq "quickly, on a very urgent basis."

Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, said in an interview with Fox News that European reaction to the Iraqi request for help in training the police and Iraqi soldiers had been "very favorable."

"Really," she added, "they're in a phase of looking to quick implementation." The interim prime minister, Iyad Allawi, formally requested such help last week, just ahead of the June 30 handover of limited sovereignty. Rice said she doubted that the interim government would call for "a broad-scale state of emergency," as some have speculated - a situation that place U.S. troops in the awkward position of enforcing tough conditions more widely on the Iraqi population. But she added that the new government likely would employ more members of the former Iraqi Army, after vetting to ensure they had not taken part in past abuses. Allawi enters office amid one of the worst spikes of anti-coalition violence, which will test the ability of his government, in coordination with the U.S.-led multinational force, to bring peace. Secretary of State Colin Powell said Sunday that he did not believe the new violence would require a larger American military deployment. He appeared heartened that despite the unrest, the 16 NATO countries now individually represented in Iraq were "all standing firm."

Allawi said Sunday that he had asked Morocco, Bahrain and Oman to join the multinational force, Agence France-Presse reported from Baghdad. Such an Arab presence would be symbolically important. Rice and Powell depicted the handover as a signal achievement.

"The Iraqi people now have the opportunity to build a new society with a new political system resting on a foundation of democracy," Powell said.

Rice said Bush would not attend the June 30 events, because "this is a moment for the Iraqis."

Two prominent former Democratic officials signaled caution. Richard Holbrooke, former UN ambassador, told ABC News the administration's experiment in Iraq was a risky leap into the unknown, like "jumping off the diving board without knowing whether there's any water in the pool."

And Madeleine Albright, the former secretary of state, told NBC News that "there is a real question as to whether America is safer today" as a result of the Iraq war. A core test will be the ability of the U.S.-led multinational force and its Iraqi allies to restore peace. Despite the UN resolution passed this month to support the Iraqi transition, two major NATO members, France and Germany, remain opposed to sending troops. But Rice predicted more support, of an unspecified type, "now that there is a Security Council resolution and as the reconstruction phase really kicks in." International Herald Tribune