France and US strike compromise by allowing Nato troops to train military

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The Independent Online

France and the US last night ended their latest rift over Iraq, finally agreeing a controversial deal under which Nato will help train the Iraqi military.

France and the US last night ended their latest rift over Iraq, finally agreeing a controversial deal under which Nato will help train the Iraqi military.

After three days of negotiation, the alliance's ambassadors made a crucial breakthrough in the search for a compromise over the terms under which training will take place on Iraqi soil. The row was being seen as a litmus test of the alliance's ability to put its past differences behind it.

On Thursday France conceded the principle that Nato should deploy its trainers inside the country. France and Germany have made it clear they will not be sending troops, but Paris backed down from its objection to any Nato operation in Iraq.

France had also agreed on the need for a second fact-finding mission to Iraq next month. That will now begin within 10 days and will be allowed to start training work with the Iraqi security forces.

But last night the alliance's most senior diplomats came to a fudged agreement over the one outstanding issue: Washington's demand that a Nato training mission should come under the command of the US-led multilateral force in Iraq.

That had been rejected by Paris and several other national capitals, which believe that such a decision could prejudge the nature of any future involvement by Nato in Iraq.

The command and control element of the decision will not be resolved until September. The fudge will allow the first phase of the mission - the despatch of the second fact-finding team - take place on 6 August.

The transatlantic rift revealed the depth of suspicions on both sides. Washington believed the French were seeking to postpone any decision and that Paris is determined to give little assistance to the American administration ahead of November's presidential elections. The French say the Americans are trying to entangle the alliance in Iraq as part of an exit strategy that would lumber the 26 nations with the security aftermath of a war they opposed.

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