IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Bush: Iraq ‘will have our help’

President Bush said Thursday he does not expect NATO to offer more troops for Iraq, but he said he was looking for European countries to support an expanded role in training Iraqi troops.
/ Source: news services

President Bush said Thursday it is unrealistic to expect NATO to send more troops to Iraq, but he made a parting plea to close allies to do what they can to guide Iraq into a stable democracy.

"They need our help, and they will have our help," he said at a news conference here concluding three days of talks at the Group of Eight summit on nearby Sea Island, Ga.

French President Jacques Chirac remained skeptical of any additional NATO military role, but Germany's chancellor said he would not block it, if Iraq requested such help. His own country will not send troops, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder made clear.

‘Unrealistic’ to expect more NATO troops
Bush admitted as much, telling reporters: "I don't expect more troops from NATO to be offered up. That is an unrealistic expectation."

A U.N. Security Council resolution on Iraq approved earlier this week will have the "practical effect" of allowing the leaders of countries with troops already in Iraq to persuade their governments to keep them there, he said.

Despite the disagreement on NATO's possible role, Bush said the United States and France now have "excellent" relations.

Bush's appeal for more Iraq help came as the Group of Eight summit of powerful countries drew to a close with a show of unity on promoting democratic reforms across the larger Middle East and fighting AIDS — but no new commitments on money or troops for Iraq.

Four of the countries, the United States, Britain, Italy and Japan, have forces in Iraq. The other four — France, Germany, Russia and Canada — do not, and their leaders gave no sign of changing that.

Bush had hoped to win general approval from summit partners for a wider role for NATO in Iraq peacekeeping or in the training of Iraqi troops — one that could be refined further at the NATO summit in Istanbul, Turkey, later this month.

The Iraqi people need help’
"We understand the Iraqi people need help to defend themselves, to rebuild their country and, most importantly, to hold elections," Bush said after meeting privately with Chirac.

Chirac has strong reservations about the idea of expanding NATO’s role, but is open to discussions before the summit at month’s end, French officials said.

During a photo session after meeting with Bush, Chirac did not mention the dispute over Iraq or NATO, but spoke instead of how much he had enjoyed the G-8 summit, particularly the food.

“I can tell you that over the last few days, this cuisine here in America was certainly on a par with French cuisine,” Chirac said.

“He particularly liked the cheeseburger he had yesterday,” Bush said.

“It was excellent,” Chirac said.

Bush later said he had conveyed Chirac’s compliment to the chef. “It’s a whole lot better to hear the food is good from Jacques Chirac than from George W. Bush,” he joked.

Common ground possible on NATO role
A senior administration official present at the meeting, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said U.S. officials think there is time to reach common ground on the NATO question between now and the Istanbul meeting at month’s end.

While Iraq and the wider Middle East dominated the summit, the leaders also reached modest agreements on other issues like training 75,000 new peacekeepers to patrol war-torn countries over the next five years and coordinating efforts to find a vaccine against the AIDS virus.

The administration was eager to reach the accords to showcase Bush as a leader able to get things done on the global stage. His Democratic presidential challenger, John Kerry has charged that Bush has alienated many of America’s traditional allies.

Throughout the week, protests against the summit were light. About a dozen people were arrested Thursday when they sat in front of the security gates on the only road leading to the island site, but the numbers who showed up during the week were far below expectations.

After the summit, Bush and other leaders were leaving this exclusive beach resort for Washington to attend the state funeral of former President Reagan. Bush was to see the casket Thursday evening when he returns to Washington.

Agreements reached on summit's final day
Among the agreements announced on the concluding day of the summit, the G-8:

  • Approved a U.S. proposal to train and where necessary provide equipment for 75,000 new peacekeepers to provide the world with a more rapid response to crises in Africa and elsewhere.
  • Agreed to extend for another two years a popular debt-relief program for the world’s poorest nations that had been scheduled to go out of existence at the end of this year. The G-8 countries also agreed to provide for bigger amounts of debt forgiveness.
  • Directed their finance ministers to pursue an agreement in the Paris Club of wealthy creditor countries for substantial relief of Iraq’s massive $120 billion in foreign debt. However, the leaders reached no agreement at Sea Island on how much of that debt would be forgiven.
  • Backed a U.S. proposal to accelerate development of an HIV vaccine through better coordination of global efforts. The United States pledged $15 million to launch the effort.