Bush for NATO role in Iraq

US President George Bush has raised the possibility of a NATO role in trying to stabilise occupied Iraq.

    Bush (R) and Chirac have been patching up their differences

    Bush and his closest Iraq war ally, British Prime Minister

    Tony Blair, had breakfast talks on possible NATO involvement in

    training Iraqi security forces

    .

    The news came as world leaders, including Iraq's new interim president Ghazi al-Yawar, met at the Groups of Eight summit in Georgia on Wednesday.

    Bush did, however,

    acknowledge that some members of the Western military alliance

    might not be able to contribute.

    "We believe NATO ought to be involved," Bush said, but

    added: "There's going to be some constraints, obviously. A lot

    of NATO countries are not in a position to commit more

    troops."

    But nor do some countries want to send troops. France has always opposed the suggestion of sending NATO to Iraq, and Germany's Gerhard Schroeder has said it would rather not commit troops as well.

    Iraqi security

    Blair emphasised that Iraqis need to be in a position to

    provide stability and security themselves.

    "We believe NATO ought to be involved [in Iraq]...

    There's going to be some constraints, obviously. A lot

    of NATO countries are not in a position to commit more

    troops"

    George Bush,
    US president

    "There is a capability that is there at the moment, but we

    know there are gaps in that capability and we are there to help

    them and make sure the Iraqis ultimately can take care of their

    own security and defence," he said.

    NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said earlier that

    it would be difficult for the alliance to turn a blind eye if the

    Iraqi interim government called for its intervention in the weeks or

    months to come.

    Howver, Spanish

    Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said

    NATO involvement in Iraq

    would be a mistake.

    He added that even if NATO does become involved, Spain, a member of the

    alliance, would not send any of its troops back to Iraq "no matter

    under what umbrella".

    Spanish dissent

    Spain last month completed the withdrawal of its 1400-strong

    military contingent, fulfilling a pledge by Socialist Prime Minister

    Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who won the general election 14 March

    .

    The Iraq war led to bitter divisions between the United

    States and long-time allies like France and Germany.

    And since the US-led invasion of Iraq last year, the country has been beset by car bombings and

    bloodshed

    .

    But Bush is hoping the leaders will now focus on the future and help put an international stamp on Iraq.

    Negotiators from the G8 countries - the United States,

    Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Canada and Russia - are

    working to complete the details of an initiative urging

    Arab and Muslim leaders in the Middle East and North Africa to

    adopt democratic reforms.

    Middle East concerns

    The leaders

    will discuss

    Bush's Middle East initiative with their Middle Eastern

    counterparts at the summit.

    Iraq has been beset by violence
    since last year's US-led invasion

    The initiative has been the subject of meticulous

    negotiations for six months and the United States had to

    rewrite some of it to satisfy European concerns. One change

    that was made was to emphasise job creation.

    Arab leaders are concerned the initiative will be

    seen as an attempt to impose Western-style reforms on them.



    Officials are still working on the final text, and an

    agreement could be reached as early as Wednesday.

    US officials said summit negotiators are also close to

    an agreement on a plan to stop the spread of nuclear weapons.

    The proposal would, among other things, suspend for one

    year all new transfers of equipment for uranium enrichment and

    reprocessing.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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