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U.S. seeking Arab peacekeepers in Iraq

Jan. 13, 2006 at 9:22 AM
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CAIRO, Jan. 13 (UPI) -- The U.S. is reportedly seeking to convince Arab countries to send troops to Iraq to replace U.S. forces after the formation of a new Iraqi government.

Cairo-based Arab diplomatic sources said U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney who will start a Middle East tour on Sunday including Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Oman, will discuss the matter with Arab leaders.

The sources told United Press International Friday Cheney will raise with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and other Arab leaders the possibility of dispatching Arab and Islamic troops to Iraq to pave the way for the reduction of American forces.

Washington hopes Arab forces would participate in keeping peace in the regions from which it will pull out its troops, and as such send a positive message to Iraq's neighbors that it does not intend to keep its forces in the Arab country, the sources said.

Cheney will visit Egypt on Sunday for a few hours during which he will meet President Mubarak only, Egyptian officials said without elaboration.

Cheney's last visit to Egypt took place in March 2002 as part of a regional tour to win Arab support for war against Iraq which Washington waged a year later to topple Saddam Hussein's regime.

The U.S. administration is facing growing pressures from Congress and U.S. public opinion to pull out troops from Iraq as quickly as possible, but officials hinted to a possible reduction of troops, arguing that an early withdrawal would give wrong signals to insurgents.

Cheney's visit coincides as well with Egyptian and Saudi efforts to ease tensions between Syria and the West over the results of the international inquiry into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri which named Syrian officials as suspects and requested to interview Syrian President Bashar Assad.

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