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Europe mute on U.N. troops for Iraq

U.N. appeals for international troops to protect U.N. monitors during Iraq’s elections are unlikely to get a reply from Europe before the U.S. elections, analysts and diplomats said.
/ Source: The Associated Press

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s appeal for international troops to protect U.N. monitors during Iraq’s elections next year is unlikely to get a reply from Europe before the U.S. elections, analysts and diplomats said Friday.

However, analysts believe a victory by Democratic Sen. John Kerry in the Nov. 2 presidential election could increase pressure on French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to send troops.

“I don’t see any movement before the American elections by the Europeans. Absolutely not,” said Rory Keane, a research fellow at the International Security Information Service Europe, a Brussels-based think tank.

Annan complained this week that he had gotten no response to an appeal for international troops, separate from the U.S.-led coalition force, to protect U.N. staffers who could monitor Iraq’s January elections.

“We have not done very well. It is the same governments who are asking me to send in my civilian staff who are not going to give me troops to protect them,” he said, without singling out any nations.

Since Annan made his comments Tuesday, the United Nations said Fiji had offered 130 troops to protect U.N. staff and facilities, making it the first country to respond to requests for a protection force.

No budge in official stance
Officially, the view from Europe’s biggest opponents of the Iraq war is unchanged.

“We don’t want to send troops — whatever their purpose — to Iraq,” a French Foreign Ministry official said Friday in response to a question about Annan’s appeal.

“For the 368th time, no, we are not sending any German soldiers to Iraq,” even with respect to a possible mission to protect U.N. workers, a German Foreign Ministry official said on condition of anonymity.

The French and German leaders were outspoken in their opposition to President Bush’s decision to go to war with Iraq.

But Keane said a victory by Kerry “would put Chirac and Schroeder in a very difficult situation where they would want to put a hand out to Kerry but the situation in Iraq hasn’t really changed.”

Rosemary Hollis, a specialist on Iraq at London’s Royal Institute of International Affairs, said helping the United Nations with a temporary deployment for the elections could give France and Germany a politically acceptable way to put soldiers in Iraq.

“It could be an opportunity not associated with an American occupation,” Hollis said.

German Defense Minister Peter Struck last week appeared to suggest that Berlin could change its mind on an Iraqi troop deployment under the right circumstances.

“It is certainly thinkable that there could be a time — perhaps in years — when Germany will become engaged,” Struck told reporters.

Although Schroeder swiftly dismissed talk of a shift, German journalists and opposition politicians speculated that Struck was preparing for a change in German policy if Kerry won.

“I think that the Germans are tempted to do it but the French are not. ... That could turn into Franco-German tension,” said Dominique Moisi, a special adviser at the French Institute of International Relations in Paris. “The French public would like Bush to be defeated, but that does not mean they want to get into the mess in Iraq.”

Even if France and Germany remain adamant against sending in their own troops, diplomats said, there could be room for a NATO role in protecting U.N. election monitors.

Alliance diplomats said they expected it to come up for renewed discussion among the 26 allies after the U.S. election. “It’s very sensitive,” one official said. “Nobody wants to discuss it before the election. It would complicate things.”