NATO does draft deal on Iraq

The deal was struck at a summit in Istanbul, Turkey, following a formal request from Iraq’s interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi.

Details of how the training will be conducted have not been finalised, as talks continue at the two-day summit.

US President George W Bush has hailed the agreement as a clear sign rifts over Iraq are on the mend, saying “the bitter differences over the war are over.”

Mr Bush’s National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice said countries such as France and Germany who had staunchly opposed the Iraq war were indicating increased willingness to respond to calls for support.

“I think you will see more [support] now that there is a Security Council resolution and as the reconstruction phase really kicks in,” Ms Rice said.

With a US presidential election looming in November and popular support for the Iraq occupation reportedly dwindling, the Bush administration has been keen to maximise a positive outcome in a war that is continuing to take a toll in political and human terms.

However, the issue of whether NATO training will occur inside or outside Iraq has the potential to generate tension with those anti-war NATO countries which have refused to deploy troops to Iraq.

Ahead of the Istanbul NATO gathering, President Bush took the opportunity to strengthen ties with Turkey during a stopover in Ankara.

The decades-old relationship hit a hurdle in March 2003 when the Turkish government refused to allow US troops to cross Turkey into Iraq during the war.

US-Turkey cooperation has since been restored, with Turkey vowing to assist with stabilising Iraq in return for US help in reining in Kurdish paramilitaries in northern Iraq.

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