Canada will increase role in Iraq
Date: Friday, June 11 2004
Topic: Military, Security, and Defence
Canada will answer President George W. Bush's appeal to world leaders for more help in Iraq, a senior Canadian official said Wednesday.
While the U.S. push was meeting with mixed results at the annual G-8 summit being held on the exclusive Sea Island resort off Georgia's coast, the official said Canada is willing to boost its non-military role. "We'll almost certainly be increasing our involvement" in establishing democratic institutions like courts and police, as well as building schools and hospitals, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
If what emerges is a more secure environment, that will allow us to do more."
Prime Minister Paul Martin hasn't discussed increased Canadian aid with Bush, who has not asked for specific help from Canada.
But Bush, who got a boost this week with a new United Nations Security Council resolution endorsing a multinational force in Iraq, told his G-8 colleagues he wants a bigger role for NATO in Iraq, perhaps in training the Iraqi army.
"A lot of NATO countries are not in a position to commit any more troops, we fully understand that," Bush said after meeting with British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
"But I do think NATO ought to stay involved, and I think we have a good chance of getting that done."
France's Jacques Chirac, a vocal critic of the Iraq war, said more NATO involvement wouldn't be "relevant or well-understood."
"I do not believe that it is NATO's purpose to intervene in Iraq," said Chirac. "I have reservations vis-a-vis this initiative."
Four summit countries - Canada, France, Germany and Russia - have said the UN resolution hasn't changed their minds about sending troops.
Martin, though, has been vocal about world leaders getting behind Bush on Iraq, saying now is the time for a global role.
Canada has committed $300 million Cdn to the effort and is currently training Iraqi police in Jordan. It's also forgiving $750 million in Iraqi debts. Ottawa also has troops with the international security force in Afghanistan and with the peacekeeping mission in Haiti.
The Canadian official said he couldn't put a dollar figure or timeline on increased commitments, but a bigger foreign service presence in Iraq and more work with non-governmental organizations are in the cards.
"All of that will flow. The question is how quickly."
Blair, Bush's staunchest ally in Iraq, sidestepped the NATO question after meeting with the president Wednesday.
"The crucial thing now is the people of Iraq know they've got the whole of the international community on side, . . ." said Blair.
"And the terrorists and the fanatics and the extremists who are trying to stop this democracy happening know they've got the whole of the world against them, and that's the key thing."
A possible future role for NATO in Iraq would depend on requests from the Iraqi government and decisions made by all the allied countries, NATO spokesman James Appathurai told Associated Press Television News on Wednesday.
"It could range from a geographic role - taking over a zone - to a functional role, such as training," he said. "It is just to early to prejudge and we don't want to rush to judgment. Iraq is a long-term challenge and we need a long-term perspective."
Bush, who also met with Iraq's new interim president, Ghazi al-Yawer, is counting on improved relations with allies who have been divided by his Iraq policies.
The UN resolution and handover of power in Iraq at the end of the month are good news for the president, who's re-election bid this fall has been complicated by ongoing bloodshed in Iraq and the prisoner abuse scandal.
The leaders are meeting on an exclusive resort island off the coast of Georgia, more than 100 kilometres from Savannah and far away from potential terrorists, protesters and most reporters.
They discussed how to lower oil prices Wednesday among other economic issues, as well as Bush's contentious plan to expand democracy throughout the Arab world.
Some G-8 leaders are critical of his approach and many Mideast politicians have reacted unfavourably.
Martin, however, said Tuesday that the UN resolution and a push for broader democratic reform go "hand in hand."
"We're all pushing for the broader initiative," he said.