updated 7/3/2004 6:00:05 AM ET 2004-07-03T10:00:05

A senior Yemeni government official on Saturday clarified Yemen's offer to send peacekeeping soldiers to Iraq, saying such a move would only come after U.S.-led coalition forces have left the country, a news report said.

"Yemen is willing to participate in an international peacekeeping force ... after the coalition troops withdraw and Iraq regains its full sovereignty, and if the brothers in Iraq ask us to," the unnamed official told the Saba news agency.

On Friday, the Foreign Ministry said Yemen was willing to send peacekeepers to Iraq, but only if they were part of a U.N.-controlled force. It said nothing about coalition troops staying or not.

About 160,000 foreign troops, mostly American, have stayed on after Monday's handover of sovereignty to the new interim government in Iraq.

The foreign troops operate under a U.N. Security Council resolution that gives them responsibility for security. Though deployed under a U.N. mandate, they operate as a coalition led by U.S. commanders.

On Thursday, Jordan' King Abdullah II said his country might become the first Arab state to send troops to Iraq, if that country asked for help.

“I presume that if the Iraqis ask us for help directly, it would be very difficult for us to say no,” Abdullah told the British Broadcasting Corp. on Thursday. “Our message to the president or the prime minister is: Tell us what you want. Tell us how we can help, and you have 110 percent support from us.”

Iraqi government officials were not immediately available for comment Friday, the Muslim Sabbath. Hossam Zaki, a spokesman for the Arab League, said that Iraq opposed neighboring states’ sending in troops but that it had expressed a willingness to consider offers from other Arab and Islamic countries “case by case.”

Local face on foreign influence
The U.N. Security Council adopted a resolution June 8 authorizing the multinational force to remain in Iraq. The resolution also paved the way for other countries to join.

Labib Kamhawi, a Jordanian political analyst, said that Jordan, like other Arab states, initially refused to send troops to Iraq but that the transfer of sovereignty from the U.S.-led coalition to Iraq’s interim government “requires a local facade, which means that Arab and Muslim contribution is now a top priority.”

“Jordan may not necessarily send troops,” Kamhawi said, “but it is opening the door for others to say or do the same because the time has come to give the U.S. occupation in Iraq a facelift.”

White House press secretary Scott McClellan would not say whether Washington was expecting Jordanian and Yemeni troop deployments to Iraq, but he added that the possibility was “another sign the international community is standing with the Iraqi people.”

A senior Bush administration official suggested that such a deployment was unlikely.

“All they’ve done is make an offer,” the official said of Yemen and Jordan. “It doesn’t cost them anything to say that.”

Historical ties complicate efforts
Jordan is a moderate Arab state with strong ties to Washington. It also enjoyed close relations with former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s regime, which supplied oil for cash-strapped Jordan.

Jordan, like Iraq, is concerned that intervention by some Iraqi neighbors could undermine the country’s political momentum and aggravate its security situation.

Turkey, another Muslim but non-Arab U.S. ally in the Middle East, has a long history of strife with Iraqi Kurds, who control the northern part of Iraq.

Iran, a Shiite-majority country, has much influence among Shiites in Iraq. But Iran and Iraq fought an eight-year war in the 1980s, and it seems unlikely that the Iraqi government would allow Iranian troops on its soil.

Syria is popular in certain quarters of Iraq’s former Baath Socialist Party. A Syrian official repeated Damascus’ position that the government would send peacekeeping forces to Iraq if the new government requested help, but only after U.S.-led forces departed.

Syria strongly opposed the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq and the idea of sending forces into its eastern neighbor. Washington imposed sanctions on Syria in May in response to allegations that it was supporting terrorism and undermining U.S. efforts in Iraq.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, a Kurd, has said Iraqis would not accept troops from bordering states, including Turkey and Iran, under any circumstances.

King Abdullah said Thursday that he had not discussed his troop offer with Iraqi authorities.

“I would feel that we are not the right people,” Abdullah said. “But at the end of the day, if there is something we can provide, a service to the future of Iraqis, then we’ll definitely study that proposal.”

Abdullah’s foreign minister, Marwan Muasher, told The Associated Press on Friday that the king’s “statement was only an expression of support.”

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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