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No NATO Agreement On Iraq, But Officials Say Consensus Expected Soon - 2004-09-20

NATO ambassadors failed to finalize an agreement to expand the alliance's military training mission in Iraq, after meeting in a special session Monday. But officials say they hope to work things out at another meeting later this week.

NATO Spokesman James Appathurai says some details need to be finalized, but he expects agreement by Wednesday, when the 26 NATO ambassadors have their regular weekly meeting.

"They are now very close to consensus," Mr. Appathurai says. "They are all singing off the same song sheet. There are no major areas remaining of disagreement. So, I am confident that, in the next one or two days, they should reach formal consensus on how to enhance that assistance."

Among the concerns before the alliance are details of how to pay for the mission, command arrangements and how to protect about 300 NATO instructors.

France and Belgium, both opponents of the Iraq war, last week blocked an agreement on widening the mission to set up a military academy for Iraq's armed forces.

NATO sent about 40 soldiers to Iraq last month, after France dropped objections to dispatching any instructors. Although a number of NATO members have individually sent troops to take part in the U.S. coalition in Iraq, objections from France and Germany have blocked a major collective role by NATO, other than logistical support for a Polish-led force.

Meanwhile, Iraq's interim prime minister, Iyad Allawi, has again called on the alliance to help build up Iraq's new armed forces. In the British newspaper, The Independent, he urged NATO and the European Union to do their utmost to help with expertise, training and equipment.