- The Washington Times - Friday, May 5, 2006

COPENHAGEN — Denmark will keep its troops in the U.S.-led security mission in Iraq for at least another year, the government announced yesterday.

Foreign Minister Per Stig Moller told reporters at a press briefing there would be a slight net reduction in the 530-troop deployment, but the reduction will be far smaller than the one-fifth cut predicted in some Danish press outlets.

“We feel that extending the mandate for another 12 months is the right thing to do,” Mr. Moller said.

The announcement came a day after center-right Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen told The Washington Times in an interview he was committed to maintaining Denmark’s Iraq deployment.

Mr. Rasmussen said the furor in the Muslim world over the publication last fall by a Danish newspaper of cartoons of the prophet Muhammad had only “strengthened our resolution” to preserve Denmark’s military commitments in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

The opposition center-left parties oppose an extension of the six-month mandate for Danish troops in Iraq that expires July 1, but the government is expected to carry the vote in parliament.

Three Danish soldiers have been killed in Iraq since 2003. The bulk of Denmark’s forces are based in southern Iraq around the largely Shi’ite city of Basra under British command.

The government said yesterday that about 80 troops now training Iraqi forces would be coming home.

But Denmark also will assign between 40 and 70 troops to operate and protect a C-130 Hercules aircraft running supply missions for the United Nations from Jordan into Iraq.

“Terrorists murder with the aim of ruining the democratic development of Iraq and therefore it is very important that we support the reconstruction of the country,” Mr. Moller said.

“We will reorganize our contribution, but we will strengthen our U.N. effort,” he said.

Mr. Rasmussen told The Times that Denmark would remain part of the international coalition as long as the Baghdad government requested help and the mission was backed by a U.N. resolution.

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