"The Iraqi government formally asks the Danish military contingent to continue its presence and work in the south of Iraq as part of the international coalition," Hoshyar Zebari, Iraqi foreign minister, wrote to his Danish counterpart Per Stig Moeller, the Danish Foreign Ministry said on Thursday.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Danish prime minister, on Tuesday asked the Iraqi government to speak out on the issue of around 530 Danish troops, mostly based in Basra in southern Iraq under British command.

The city council in Basra on Tuesday asked Denmark to pull out its troops until Copenhagen apologised for Danish daily Jyllands-Posten's publication of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad last September, copied by other countries and provoking anger and violence across the Muslim world.

Rasmussen said on 3 February that he could not apologise for the publication of the cartoons in his country where newspapers are free of state control.