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Iraq Asks NATO To Speed Security Force Training - 2004-07-13

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari has told the NATO alliance that his country urgently needs NATO to implement its pledge to train Iraq's security forces. VOA's Roger Wilkison reports from Brussels that NATO is still trying to decide how and where to conduct the training because of differences among the allies.

Mr. Zebari, who briefed NATO ambassadors at the alliance's headquarters Tuesday and later met with reporters, is appealing for the training aid NATO promised his country at the organization's summit in Istanbul last month to be delivered immediately.

"We need this training you promised us in Istanbul to be carried out as soon as possible," he said. "We need it. In fact, we are in a race against time. And it is a matter of urgency."

NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer says the allies will decide this month on how the training mission will be conducted. Alliance military experts recently visited Baghdad to look at ways in which the training mission can be instituted and are due to report to NATO ambassadors within days.

The 26-member alliance, where all decisions are made by consensus, is still divided over how to carry out the training mission in Iraq.

France does not want NATO, as an alliance, to be involved in Iraq. It has said that the training could be done by individual NATO members inside the country, or by the alliance outside Iraq. The United States wants NATO to have a presence in Iraq.

The Iraqi foreign minister says his government prefers that the training mission be conducted inside Iraq.

Mr. Zebari wants more than just training, though. He says he has asked NATO for military equipment, support in guarding Iraq's borders and protection for the U.N. mission that is supposed to oversee elections that are scheduled to take place in January.

"We are committed to a political process, to hold elections. We need the United Nations to be established in Iraq," he said. "The United Nations needs security, [for] its facilities, installations, personnel. So we have made that request of NATO, as an organization or its individual members, to help us."

The United Nations pulled out of Iraq after a bombing at its Baghdad headquarters last August killed 22 people. It has been reluctant to establish a new mission there until the security situation improves.

Secretary-General de Hoop Scheffer says NATO will consider Mr. Zebari's requests in the weeks ahead.