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Updated: 26-Jan-2004

SHAPE News Morning Update

26 January 2004

  • Can the U.S. and the EU unite to push Middle East democracy?
  • U.S. presses case for NATO in Middle East, France is wary


  • U.S. considers Iraqi elections
  • France denies report it is sending troops to Iraq


  • Afghanistan resolves to fight drugs


  • Can the U.S. and Europe heal their bitter rift over Iraq by joining forces to push for democracy and security in the greater Middle East? That issue was one of the signature themes of this year’s gathering at the World Economic Forum in Davos. U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney challenged the Europeans, in a conciliatory speech that stressed Washington’s commitment to multilateral cooperation and respect for the European Union, to join in pressing for democratic reform from Iran to Mauritania. The Bush administration believes a deficit in political and economic freedom in the Muslim world is a key factor fuelling terrorism that poses the greatest security threat to the West. Officials say it plans to make President Bush’s “greater Middle East initiative” a centrepiece of transatlantic diplomacy this year. NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said the Western military alliance planned to build up cooperation with Israel and Arab Mediterranean partners to help fight terrorism. Arab and Muslim leaders in Davos voiced deep suspicion of attempts to impose democracy from outside. (Reuters 251159 GMT Jan 04)

  • The United States pressed its case on Friday for NATO to play a greater role in bringing security and stability to the greater Middle East, but France warned against using the alliance as a nation-builder. “The future of no longer to focus our military efforts here on Europe because we won that battle,” U.S. ambassador to the security alliance Nicholas Burns said. “If our major mutual security concern is this nexus between terrorism and weapons of mass destruction we need to go where the source of that problem is, to places like Afghanistan and Iraq,” he told a conference in Brussels. He was echoed by Senator Hagel, a member of the Senate foreign relations and intelligence committees, who urged NATO to bolster Turkey as a “bridge” to the Arab and Islamic world and to plan for the day when its peacekeepers might “monitor the birth of a Palestinian state.” He backed plans to beef up the alliance’s decade-old security partnership with Israel and Arab states around the Mediterranean to include joint military training and exercises. (Reuters 231740 GMT Jan 04)


  • The Bush administration is considering whether to abandon or change its plan to set up an independent Iraqi government through regional caucuses, The Washington Post reported in its Sunday edition. Citing anonymous sources, it said that the U.S. government could set up partial elections or leave an expanded version of the appointed Iraqi Governing Council in place when it hands over power by June 30. U.S. officials told United Nations representatives last week that everything is on the table except the June 30 deadline, the newspaper reported. The UN is reviving the idea of a national meeting equivalent to Afghanistan’s loya jirga assembly. (Reuters 250541 GMT Jan 04)

  • The German weekly Der Spiegel reported on Saturday that France was preparing to send troops to Iraq, prompting a swift denial by Paris. The magazine quoted NATO sources as saying France was considering sending a brigade, or up to 3,000 troops. A French Foreign Ministry spokesman dismissed the report, saying: “We deny this completely.” The magazine also reported that NATO was considering moving its rapid reaction force headquarters from Moenchengladbach in Germany to Iraq as part of a deployment there, which could force Germany to commit troops to Iraq. It said NATO defence ministers would discuss the plans during a security conference in Munich on February 6 to 8. (Reuters 241303 GMT Jan 04)


  • Under U.S. pressure, Afghan officials are promising a crackdown on the country’s booming drug trade, including high-profile arrests, raids on drug laboratories and destruction of thousands of acres of illicit crops. “The coalition came into Afghanistan with a fairly narrow anti-terrorism mandate,” said Adam Bouloukos, of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime in Kabul. “I think there is now a better understanding from all sides that it is very hard to separate terrorist activities from the narcotics business here.” U.S. commanders say American troops won’t be directly involved in drug eradication. But a military spokesman said Saturday that U.S. officials were “in consultation” with the Afghan government. (AP 260056 Jan 04)


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