U.S. wins regional support for long-term military stay in Iraq

Monday, March 29, 2004

Yemen has agreed to press the Arab League to support the U.S. military presence in Iraq. The stand, which has received has been well-received by U.S. and EU officials, would represent a reversal of the nation's previous policy.

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has proposed a plan that calls for an indefinite U.S. military stay in Iraq. Yemeni officials said Saleh would submit his proposal to the Arab League summit, scheduled to be held in Tunis on Monday, Middle East Newsline reported.

Officials said the Saleh plan envisions a long-term U.S. military presence in an effort to stabilize Iraq. They said Saleh seeks to establish a panel that would include representatives from the interim Iraqi Governing Council, the Arab League, the United Nations, United States and its allies to draft a program for the restoration of stability and sovereignty to Iraq.

Eventually, an international force would be deployed in Iraq, according to the Yemeni plan. At the same time, U.S. forces would be deployed outside of major Iraqi cities.

"They would draft a roadmap for Iraq that guarantees the territorial unity of Iraq, confronting any separatist disputes, the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Iraq and ending the occupation," the Yemeni Defense Ministry weekly, "September 26," said.

Yemen was said to have special expertise on Iraq. Thousands of Iraqis fled their country for Yemen during the Saddam Hussein regime. Many of them were now considering returning to Iraq in wake of Saddam's capture.

The Yemeni proposal also calls for the international panel to oversee the establishment of an Iraqi military within two years. The United States has pledged to complete a 40,000-member Iraqi military by October 2004.

Yemen discussed the Saleh plan with the United States, the European Union and the permanent members of the UN Security Council, officials said.

They said the plan has received a warm reception.

The Yemeni plan was seen as a reversal in Sanaa's position regarding Iraq.

Sanaa had been an opponent of the U.S. war in Iraq and its subsequent military occupation.

The Saleh plan also included a roadmap for the revival of diplomatic means to end the Arab-Israeli conflict as well as democratic reform in the Middle East.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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