NATO 26 nations to help train Iraqis
Some countries will limit their assistance to outside the country.
BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) -- All 26 nations of the NATO alliance decided Tuesday they will work together to help train Iraq's military -- a decision designed to symbolize the end to the bitter divisions wrought by the Iraq war.
However, in a sign of lingering differences, France, Germany and other opponents of the war will not send instructors to Iraq, limiting their contribution to training outside the country or funding for the operation.
NATO has been struggling for months to get a commitment from all allies to join the Iraqi training mission. Officials said they have enough resources to increase the mission to include 160 instructors and 200 guards and support staff on the ground in Iraq.
"All 26 allies are contributing to the NATO mission to assist in training Iraqi security forces, to hasten the day when they can take full responsibility for the stability of the country and the security of its citizens," a joint statement of the NATO leaders said.
"We are united in our commitment," said the statement, burying the differences between the allies over the war.
The mission inside Iraq now comprises about 110 instructors training senior Iraqi officers in Baghdad's heavily protected Green Zone. Over half the NATO instructors are American.
NATO officials said allies also had pledged more than $4.55 million for a trust fund to cover transport and expenses of Iraqi officers traveling to NATO training posts outside the country. Allied nations will cover their own costs for training inside and outside the country.
French President Jacques Chirac confirmed France will participate in the NATO mission. But officials said the contribution would be limited to one officer working at NATO headquarters in Belgium. France has separately offered to train 1,500 Iraqi military police in Qatar and to play a lead role in European Union efforts to train Iraqi judicial officials.
"In Iraq, France wants to contribute to stability," Chirac said.
The announcement on Iraq was a highlight of a summit between President Bush and the other 25 NATO leaders carefully choreographed to show the alliance has overcome bitterness over the Iraq war.
Starting his European tour Monday, Bush sought to quell any concerns about America's commitment to an alliance that has struggled to establish a wider global role since the end of the Cold War.
"The alliance of Europe and North America is the main pillar of our security in a new century," Bush said in a speech. "Our strong friendship is essential to peace and prosperity across the globe and no temporary debate, no passing disagreement of governments, no power on earth will ever divide us."
Although European leaders also want to overcome Iraq war divisions, differences remain over how to take the partnership forward.
Washington has reacted coolly to a suggestion from German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder that security talks between the United States and the European Union should replace NATO as the main forum for trans-Atlantic strategic dialogue.
Schroeder's call for a high-level panel to review how NATO operates is likely to figure prominently when allied leaders sit down for a working lunch after the formal summit.
The idea also received a cool reception from de Hoop Scheffer, who stressed that trans-Atlantic security was best handled at NATO.
"NATO continues to play its unique role as the primary forum for North America and Europe to come together, shape common perspectives on security issues and to act together," he told the summit.
Behind Schroeder's suggestions are concerns in France and Germany that the United States is a "first among equals" in NATO, an alliance where U.S. military might far outweighs that of the European allies. They want more recognition of the EU's economic and diplomatic influence.
Chirac backed Schroeder. "As the German federal chancellor has said, we have to keep taking account of changes on the European continent," he told the meeting.
Although Britain, Italy, Poland and other allies have individually sent troops to join the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq, NATO's role there has been restricted to the training mission launched in August -- because France and Germany resist a wider role.