Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Nations Ask What, If Any, Role in Iraq; World Leaders Discuss Using NATO Troops and Other Options for after June 30 Handoff of Power

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Nations Ask What, If Any, Role in Iraq; World Leaders Discuss Using NATO Troops and Other Options for after June 30 Handoff of Power

Article excerpt

Byline: TIMOTHY J. GIBBONS, The Times-Union

SEA ISLAND, Ga. -- The G-8 nations' leaders will have barely shaken the sand out of the shoes they wore on the dunes of Sea Island when they'll have to once again take up perhaps the most divisive issue of the summit: their role in Iraq.

At the end of June, when North Atlantic Treaty Organization leaders -- including some of the G-8 countries-- meet in Istanbul, Turkey, it's likely the issue of troops in Iraq will once again be on the table.

The troop discussion provided perhaps the sharpest point of disagreement among the G-8 leaders, especially among NATO members.

NATO, which has acted in other conflicts, such as Yugoslavia, currently is fulfilling only a small support role in Iraq, providing logistics and communication assistance to Polish troops there.

Prior to a recently passed U.N. resolution concerning the handover of authority in Iraq, France, Germany, Russia and Canada stressed that they would not get involved in the fighting, with the NATO countries not even sending troops under that banner.

Accordingly, much of the discussion at the summit revolved around what type of support role NATO could provide for the Iraqi military once the United States hands over the keys to the country on June 30.

"I suggested to the leaders of the G-8 that we listen to the needs of the Iraqi leadership," President Bush said during a news conference. "And if they ask for more training, for example, a good organization to provide that training would be NATO. I don't expect more troops from NATO to be offered up. That's an unrealistic expectation."

All the national leaders who addressed the issue stressed that whatever they did, it would be at the request of the new Iraqi government.

It was unclear as the summit ended how willing NATO allies, particularly France, would be to provide officer training or other services.

In discussions Thursday morning, according to a U.S. senior administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity, French President Jacques Chirac did not offer a "firm red line of no's" regarding NATO involvement. …

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