The country has been asked by Washington to send around 10,000 soldiers to Iraq to help secure the post-war peace.

"A decision has been taken in principle, it means we shall be willing to send troops to Iraq, but certain conditions have to be met," Pakistan foreign ministry spokesman Masood Khan said on Monday.

"There has to be a particular environment for sending the troops, and the environment is defined by the legitimacy of the cover, and the other factor is whether or not the people of Iraq would be hospitable to this kind of mission," he added.

Peacekeeping burden

President Pervez Musharraf said last month he had agreed in principle to send troops, but would prefer to do so under the auspices of the United Nations or another international body.

However, Muslim opposition groups in Pakistan strongly oppose Musharraf's close ties with the United States and are against sending troops to Iraq.

Pervez Musharraf (l) is accused of
being too close to the US

At the moment, the United States is trying to convince its allies in the Muslim world to share the peacekeeping burden in Iraq where its troops are under daily attack.

Arab foreign ministers will meet in Cairo on Tuesday to discuss the potentially embarrassing US request for assistance.

"It is a delicate question that might generate dissent," said an Arab League official who asked not to be named.

Embarrassing request

"Some Arab states are firmly opposed to sending troops, others do not mind if there is a UN resolution and a request from a legitimate Iraqi government," he said.

However, Arab League spokesman Hisham Yussef said Iraq's security was the responsibility of the US-British forces.

"The United States have asked 70 countries to send forces to restore security. Thirty countries have accepted, the meeting will discuss the legal and political implications of their decision," he said.

The 22-member Arab League emerged divided and weakened from the US-led war on Iraq.

Some of them, notably Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain, offered facilities for the invasion, while others, like Syria, opposed it.