Thursday, March 04, 2004

Iraq-NATO

NATO would likely "take a stabilisation role in post-war Iraq if invited by an autonomous government and approved by the UN Security Council."

NATO will take a stabilisation role in post-war Iraq if invited by an autonomous government and approved by the UN Security Council, Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said on Thursday.

“If those elements are met, then I think the alliance will approach this with a very positive attitude,” de Hoop Scheffer told reporters after meeting Polish Prime Minister Leszek Miller.

Some NATO allies say a Security Council resolution is not needed for the alliance to take a more robust role in Iraq, where it currently provides behind-the-scenes support to a Polish-led division of stabilisation forces.

But de Hoop Scheffer reiterated that he hoped to see a new resolution authorising an alliance-led mission in Iraq, where the US-led administration is due to hand power to local authorities on July 1.

Diplomats say his stand accommodates France, which has said any NATO force in Iraq would have to be approved by both the United Nations and a sovereign Iraqi government.

Germany, which along with France fiercely opposed last year’s US-led invasion to topple Saddam Hussein, has ruled out sending its own troops to Iraq but has said it will not block a NATO mission.

The United States and several other allies are keen for NATO to take command of the force in central-south Iraq currently led by Poland. De Hoop Scheffer said it was up to Warsaw to decide when it would yield control.


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