“In general, we have reservations about any troops from neighbouring countries,” Iraqi interim Deputy Foreign Minister Hamid al-Bayati told AFP on Friday in reaction to comments from Jordanian King Abd Allah II.
“We have … complications with some neighbouring countries,” al-Bayati said.
The official was referring to US intelligence reports alleging an influx of foreign fighters and intelligence agents from Syria and Iran.
However, intelligence agencies have been unable to provide proof to substantiate that claim.
Iraqi officials last fall also lobbied to prevent the former US-led occupation administration from inviting Turkish troops who have clashed with the region’s Kurdish minority.
But al-Bayati added that Iraq “could accept support in training our troops and supplying equipment.”
On Thursday, King Abd Allah II pledged to send troops to Iraq if the interim Iraqi government requested outside forces.
The pledge, made during a BBC interview, marks a major shift in Jordan’s view on the international military presence in Iraq.
“My position has been beforehand not to send troops … because of Jordanian history with Iraq,” he said. “I felt that all countries that surround Iraq have their own agendas, so maybe we are not the right people to go in for the job.”
“However, now there’s an interim government and, we hope, a fully independent process very soon in Iraq. I presume, if the Iraqis ask us for help directly it will be very difficult for us to say no,” King Abd Allah said.
“My message to the president and prime minister is: Tell us what you want, tell us how we can help and we have 110% support for this”
King Abd Allah II
“My message to the president and prime minister is: Tell us what you want, tell us how we can help and we have 110% support for this.”
Washington welcomed the prospect of Jordanian troops in Iraq, but was at pains to portray any such move as a service to Iraq rather than the United States.
“A key thing to keep in mind is that the world and international community are no longer responding directly to the United States. They are responding to the sovereign nation of Iraq,” said a senior US official.
Jordan last year had criticised Turkey when it initially volunteered to send troops to Iraq.
Public opinion in Jordan is strongly opposed to US policy in the region and to Jordan’s 1994 peace treaty with Israel.
Jordanian Foreign Minister Marwan Muashir, however, downplayed the king’s remarks on Friday, saying they were a gesture of support to Iraq after it regained its sovereignty on Monday.
Jordan has helped train hundreds of officers for Iraq’s new army and thousands of police recruits for the new Iraqi police.
Marwan Muashir said the King’s
Jordanian officials, including the king, have repeatedly said their country, which contributes peacekeepers to UN missions in several world hotspots, was not ready to send troops to Iraq.
Iraq’s interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi had already said Iraq did not want peacekeeping soldiers from neighbouring countries in Iraq.
Meanwhile, Yemen, which does not border Iraq, said it would send troops only if US-led forces withdraw and give way to multinational peacekeepers under a United Nations and Arab League umbrella.