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Danish Officials Assure Powell of Continued Cooperation in Iraq - 2004-04-29

Secretary of State Colin Powell ended a brief European trip with a visit to Copenhagen for talks with Danish officials about Iraq. He was assured that Denmark will maintain that country's 500-strong Iraqi troop presence.

The Bush administration is eager to prevent further erosion in the Iraq coalition after the departure earlier this month of Spain, Honduras, and the Dominican Republic. Mr. Powell, paying the first visit to Denmark by a Secretary of State since 1991, won an assurance that the small NATO ally is prepared to stay the course in Iraq, despite the upsurge in violence in recent weeks.

At a joint news conference with Mr. Powell, Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller said his country will stay in Iraq until the job is done.

"We have remained in agreement on the necessity of having a determined stand in Iraq," the foreign minister said. "It is not acceptable that people who would destroy the pathway towards democracy would carry the day. That is why we have to stay. There is no contradiction between the United States and Denmark on this matter."

The Danish foreign minister said his government was having technical discussions with Britain about the possibility of expanding its contingent in Iraq, but he made no commitment to do so, and Mr. Powell made clear the U.S. administration is happy with Denmark's current contribution.

"We are facing some tough days right now, but we will prevail over these tough days," Colin Powell said. "We will prevail because we have strength to prevail. We will prevail because we are right and we will prevail because we are determined to give the Iraqi people a better life than they had under Saddam Hussein. And I want to thank Denmark for that steadfastness, for not blinking, and being prepared to stay with the challenge that is ahead of us."

Mr. Powell made his stop in Denmark after attending the OSCE conference in Berlin on combating European anti-Semitism.

Under skeptical questioning from students at a Copenhagen high school, Mr. Powell defended the Bush administration's decision to intervene in Iraq, and its recent embrace of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plans for disengagement from the Palestinians.

He told the students the United States is working to resolve the cases of remaining terrorist suspects held at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba as quickly as possible, and said he expected action on seven French nationals detained there in the very near future.

Mr. Powell said the United States has no desire to hold individuals who pose no security threat, but said some of those at Guantanamo are very dangerous and that a group of them will remain after the interrogation process is completed.