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apoet29
Jul 14th, 2003, 04:37 PM
India: No troops to Iraq
Monday, July 14, 2003 Posted: 7:58 AM EDT (1158 GMT)

Washington had requested 17,000 Indian peacekeepers.


NEW DELHI, India -- India has declined a U.S. request to send a peacekeeping force to Iraq.

External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha said such a deployment could only be considered under a United Nations mandate.

The decision came Monday after a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security in New Delhi.

Pakistan's commitment to peacekeepers has placed pressure on New Delhi to commit to a force, even though there has been widespread opposition among India's political parties and the public to any troop deployment.

"Our long-term national interest, our concern for the people of Iraq, our long-standing ties with the Gulf region, as well as our growing dialogue and strengthened ties with the U.S. have been key elements in this consideration," Sinha told reporters.

"India remains ready to respond to the urgent needs of the Iraqi people ... Were there to be an explicit U.N. mandate for the purpose, the government of India could consider the deployment of our troops in Iraq."

The United States requested 17,000 peacekeepers from India and the issue has been at the forefront of recent talks between the two nations.

The U.S. Embassy said Monday's decision would not have any bearing on U.S.-India relations.

"As we have said in the past, this was a decision for the government of India to make," spokesman David Kennedy told The Associated Press.

New Delhi had long standing relations with Iraq under Saddam Hussein as well as other Mideast nations and vowed to consult them before reaching any decision.

India's media derided the war in Iraq as an "invasion," with the government also arguing then that any military action taken by the United States be done under a U.N. mandate.

Opponents of the peacekeeping deployment argued that such a move would go against New Delhi's stance that the U.N., rather than the United States, must lead reconstruction and stabilization efforts there.