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Hungary Refuses to Send Peacekeepers to Iraq - 2003-04-29


In a visit to Budapest, British Defense Secretary Geoffrey Hoon expressed the hope that Hungarian peacekeepers would soon be sent to Iraq. He spoke one day after the Hungarian parliament refused to debate deploying troops in Iraq.

Other former Communist countries, such as Poland, Romania, and the Czech Republic, have pledged to send peacekeepers to Iraq, but Hungary has not joined them, even though its government would like to. The opposition in parliament has successfully frustrated the government's efforts to even get a vote on sending peacekeepers to Iraq.

The opposition argues that the war has not officially ended and that peacekeepers would actually become peacemakers.

Hungary's foreign minister, Laszlo Kovacs, criticized the largest opposition party, Fidesz, for voting against a motion that could have led to sending peacekeepers.

"Fidesz wanted to be known as a peaceful party," Mr. Kovacs said. "But the government has discovered it is a party of war. If it is a party of peace, it should vote for the peacekeepers."

The opposition's stand has been boosted by recent opinion polls in Hungary. During the war in Iraq, they showed most Hungarians were strongly opposed. Since the war, polls show that anti-American sentiment is increasing in the country, with about half of those polled saying they oppose America's status as the world's sole super power.