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Arab States Reject Request for Sending Peacekeepers to Iraq - 2003-08-07

A U.S. request for Arab states to send peacekeepers to Iraq is being rejected throughout the Arab world. Arab governments do not want to lend support to the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq.

Syria became the first Arab state to independently announce it will not send peacekeeping troops to Iraq, saying that doing so would only legitimize the U.S. occupation of the country.

The announcement follows Tuesday's decision by Arab League foreign ministers to oppose sending Arab peacekeeping troops to Iraq. League Secretary-General Amr Moussa said, instead of sending troops, Arab states should work harder to promote the installation of an elected government in Iraq.

Arab affairs expert Abdullah al-Ashaal, who lectures at several universities in Egypt, says Arab governments believe the issue of peacekeepers should be discussed only after U.S. forces withdraw from Iraq.

"They think that the United Nations and also the Arab world would be willing to send troops and would be willing to serve as peacekeepers, if the United States is willing also to leave Iraq," he said. "They cannot support and save American soldiers from the Iraqi resistance and to perpetuate the American occupation. This is the clear thinking of the Arab governments, including Syria and any other Arab state."

Mr. al-Ashaal notes that most Arab governments opposed the war to oust Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, even though some have close relations with the United States. He says those relationships are not popular in many countries, and the governments do not want to risk further angering their people by sending troops to Iraq now.

Washington has urged Arab governments to participate in the peacekeeping process, and has asked for a show of support for the U.S.-appointed interim Iraqi governing council. So far, only Jordan has given tacit approval to the council. Some analysts believe Jordan's close relationship with the United States could have been a motivation for the bombing of its embassy in Baghdad on Thursday.

Other Arab states have said they will only officially recognize an elected Iraqi government. That statement was greeted with some skepticism in the west because many of the existing Arab governments are themselves not democratically elected.