The United States says the 31 member-countries of the U.S.-led military coalition in Iraq have adopted a tough common policy to fight the growing number of kidnappings and hostage murders there. The coalition countries are collectively pledging no concessions to terrorists.
Many, if not all, of the coalition partners have already made statements vowing to resist kidnappings and other acts of terror.
But the new statement, which U.S. officials say will be issued in a similar form by all 31 countries, is the first collective effort to convey to the extremists in Iraq that they will not succeed in extracting concessions through violence.
Officials here say the pace of hostage incidents in Iraq has increased since last month, when the Philippines moved up the planned departure of its peacekeeping contingent by a month to gain the release of a kidnapped Filipino truck driver.
The United States strongly criticized the decision by the Manila government, and officials have also noted with disapproval a Turkish transport union's decision to stop delivering supplies to U.S. troops in the face of another hostage incident.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher read the multi-national force statement at the opening of a news briefing Wednesday. He said "terrorists and former regime elements" have intensified a campaign aimed at weakening the resolve of the international community to assist the Iraqi government, but that the resolve of the coalition "will not be shaken:"
"We're united in our resolve to make no concession to terrorists nor succumb to terrorist threats," he added. "We're committed to making sure that the perpetrators of terrorist actions against our citizens and soldiers are brought to justice. We understand that conceding to terrorists will only endanger all members of the Multinational Force, as well other countries who are contributing to Iraqi reconstruction and humanitarian assistance."
The statement said the coalition countries "share the suffering" of the families and governments whose citizens have been kidnapped and brutally treated. It said they reaffirmed solidarity with the Iraqi people who have "been the main target" of fanaticism and terror attacks.
Spokesman Boucher said the idea for the common declaration was originally suggested by Bulgaria and that other coalition partners, including Australia and Kazakhstan had already put out similar statements.
He said while the coalition had no joint political authority, all 31 governments would put out statements with essentially the same language as that presented here.