NATO to Back Plan on Training Iraq Forces
By TERENCE HUNT, AP White House Correspondent
ISTANBUL, Turkey -
NATO (news - web sites) closed ranks Sunday on a pledge to take a bigger military role in Iraq (news - web sites) as violence and bloodshed surged before the delicate political turnover in Baghdad. President Bush (news - web sites) declared that the alliance was poised to "meet the threats of the 21st century."
Determined to offer support for the
fledgling Iraqi government that takes power Wednesday, NATO leaders
were ready to announce a plan to train and equip Iraq's struggling
security forces to deal with lawlessness and terrorism.
Bush will join British Prime Minister Tony Blair (news - web sites),
French President Jacques Chirac, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder
and other leaders of the 26-nation alliance Monday at talks in the
Istanbul convention center under an extraordinary security blanket.
F-16 warplanes flew overhead while more than 23,000 police patrolled
Bush's visit triggered protests by more than 40,000 Turks (news - web sites)
chanting anti-Bush slogans as they marched in the Kadikoy district, on
the Asian side of Istanbul. Turkey vowed that it would not negotiate
with Islamic militants in Iraq who are threatening to behead three
Turkish hostages. Bush said the terrorist incident would not mar the
NATO's agreement on an Iraq training
program allowed the alliance to stand united after being torn last year
by sharp divisions over the U.S.-led invasion. U.S. officials conceded
that details of the plan still have to be worked out about its size,
cost and timing, and Germany expressed some reservations. Still, the
administration viewed the plan as an election-year victory for Bush,
answering Democratic rival John Kerry (news - web sites)'s criticism that the president has failed to enlist global allies in Iraq.
"We're going to work together to help
make sure NATO is configured militarily to meet the threats of the 21st
century," Bush said at a photo opportunity with NATO Secretary General
Jaap de Hoop Scheffer.
Defining the nature of the threat, de
Hoop Scheffer said, "We have terrorism everywhere. There's fights
everywhere, be it here in this city, be it in New York, Uzbekistan,
Mombasa, Yemen, you name it. This alliance has to participate in
fighting it first, and winning it."
In addition to a training program in
Iraq, NATO is expected to say it will consider further steps to support
Iraq's security, a senior administration official said, speaking on
condition of anonymity because the document has not been released. NATO
also will agree to expand its Afghanistan (news - web sites) mission beyond Kabul, where there are 5,800 NATO troops, the official said.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist,
R-Tenn., said that while NATO takes new responsibilities in Iraq, it
still has unfinished business in Afghanistan. "A lot of the NATO
countries have not fulfilled commitments in terms of defense
allocations, defense spending, even the provision of troop numbers,"
said Frist, here on a speech-making visit.
Germany's Schroeder renewed his
opposition to sending troops to Iraq, even for training. "We are
already working to train police officers in the United Arab Emirates,
and we do that happily," Schroeder said. U.S. officials indicated they
would be content with that.
"Every indication I have now is that NATO
is coming together to say that they would be willing to provide police
and military training to Iraqi forces," Secretary of State Colin Powell
(news - web sites) said as administration officials appeared on Sunday talk shows.
Condoleezza Rice (news - web sites),
Bush's national security adviser, said, "NATO will urge that this all
happen on a very urgent basis, that this isn't a long planning
exercise. ... I think you'll see this happen rather quickly." Despite
Germany's objections, she said the training would be done preferably
Sixteen of the 26 NATO members have individually sent forces as part of the U.S.-led coalition.
Rice said the European Commission (news - web sites),
the EU's executive body, talked to Bush Saturday about "a couple
hundred of million dollars a year support for NATO, support for Iraq."
Powell said the training plan would not
require more troops from the United States, beyond the 135,000 soldiers
already in Iraq. The United States had once hoped other countries would
contribute troops but dropped that idea when it failed to raise
Bush met with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip
Erdogan, a key ally in the war on terrorism despite the Turkish
parliament's rejection last year of a U.S. request to let American
troops use Turkish bases as a staging point to invade Iraq from the
north. Instead of looking back, Bush praised Turkey.
"I appreciate so very much the example
your country has set on how to be a Muslim country and at the same time
a country which embraces democracy and rule of law and freedom," Bush
said. He said he believed that the European Union (news - web sites) should admit Turkey as a member.
Bush dined with NATO leaders Sunday
evening at the opulent, gray-stoned Dolmabahce Palace. He also met
briefly with six Turkish religious leaders, part of the president's
effort to point out how Muslim country can be democratic and still have
tolerance for various religious faiths.
"They represent the very best of Turkey,
which is a country that is secular in its politics and strong in its
faith," Bush said about the leaders, who posed for pictures with the
president, Powell, Rice and Andy Card, White House chief of staff.