U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld says U.S. allies in NATO should help more with the training of Iraqi security forces, now that Iraq has held elections and is preparing to put a democratic government in place.
After beginning his meetings with NATO defense ministers, Secretary Rumsfeld said he is seeing signs of more cooperation on Iraq from nations that opposed the war and have refused to participate in NATO's program to help train Iraq's new security forces.
"They ought to help, one would think. Yeah, you hope. On the other hand, it's still dangerous there, and that's a factor that countries take into account," said Mr. Rumsfeld.
Mr. Rumsfeld said he has heard some increased willingness to help with Iraq from some countries since the Iraqi election 10 days ago, but he would not name them. He urged a cautious approach, saying "we'll see" and "time will tell." But he also expressed some confidence that NATO countries that have been reluctant to get involved in Iraq directly, will begin to find ways to help.
"I think we'll find that countries recognize that Iraq is on a path where they have a very good crack at making it successfully toward a peaceful, representative system that is appropriate to a liberated people. And I think people increasingly want to be a part of that," he added.
There was some evidence of that after Mr. Rumsfeld's meeting with Spanish Defense Minister Jose Bono.
Minister Bono said Spain considers the effort to bring democracy to Iraq "worthy" of support, and therefore will begin to train Iraqi security forces in de-mining skills, in what he called a "humanitarian gesture." He said the training will be done in Spain. The Spanish Socialist party came to power last year in large part on a pledge to withdraw the country's troops from Iraq, which it did, and until Wednesday the new government had refused to participate in any activities related to Iraqi security.
After a series of bi-lateral meetings Wednesday, the NATO defense ministers began their group meetings in the evening and will continue on Thursday. The United States wants several issues addressed, including problems created when Spain and other nations refuse to allow their soldiers serving with NATO to participate in operations they oppose, such as the military training in Iraq, even though the operations have been approved by the alliance's heads of government.
The NATO ministers will also meet with Russia's defense minister to discuss the global war on terrorism, and other issues. And Mr. Rumsfeld announced that he will hold a meeting with the German, Italian, French and British defense ministers to discuss efforts to fight the narcotics trade in Afghanistan.