Australian PM slams Spain decision to withdraw forces from Iraq as Bremer says Iraqi forces not ready
Australia's Prime Minister John Howard on Monday criticized Spain's decision to withdraw its forces from Iraq but dismissed suggestions Australian troops might be dispatched to fill the gap.
According to AAP, Howard told reporters that Spain had made a mistake. "Spain's decision will give heart to those people who are trying to delay the emergence of a free and democratic Iraq," he said.
"Every time a country appears to be retreating from a difficult situation encouragement is given to those people who have created the difficulty."
Australia has 300 personnel in Iraq, providing security, air traffic control at Baghdad airport and training Iraqi military personnel.
Howard stressed Australian air traffic controllers would stay in Iraq as long as it took to train locals to do the job.
Meanwhile, the top U.S. administrator said Sunday Iraqi security forces will not be ready to protect the country against "insurgents" by the June 30 handover of power.
Bremer noted the fighting across Iraq this month exposed the depth of the problems inside the Iraqi security forces.
"Events of the past two weeks show that Iraq still faces security threats and needs outside help to deal with them. Early this month, the foes of democracy overran Iraqi police stations and seized public buildings in several parts of the country," he said. "Iraqi forces were unable to stop them."
"It is clear that Iraqi forces will not be able, on their own, to deal with these threats by June 30 when an Iraqi government assumes sovereignty," Bremer said in a statement, cited by The AP. (albawaba.com)
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