- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 19, 2003


Berlin to reduce force in Afghanistan

BERLIN — Germany said yesterday that it would cut the size of its force in an international peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan to 1,500 from 2,300 by September.

A Defense Ministry spokesman said the reduction had nothing to do with a suicide attack on German troops in June that killed four soldiers and wounded more than 30.

“We were a lead nation for a half-year and it was always clear the size of the force would be reduced afterwards,” he said, referring to the command of the 5,000-strong International Security Assistance Force providing security in Kabul.

The decision came only days after German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer urged the Bush administration not to divert its attention from Afghanistan, because the situation there is still very dangerous.

A senior German official told reporters during Mr. Fischer’s visit to Washington that Berlin was concerned that some European countries, apparently acting under U.S. pressure to help the coalition forces in Iraq, have pulled their troops out of Afghanistan.

Britain, Spain, Italy, Denmark and the Netherlands have either sent or committed troops to Iraq.


U.S. ally tries to save relations

ANKARA — The United States and Turkey are discussing ways to get rid of Kurdish militants holed up in northern Iraq, as the two NATO allies try to end a diplomatic crisis over Turkey’s role in the troubled region.

The U.S. ambassador to Turkey, Robert Pearson, said yesterday a visit to Ankara by Washington’s top soldiers in Iraq and Europe had bolstered their strong military ties, which were severely shaken by the arrest of 11 Turkish soldiers in northern Iraq earlier this month.

“The two [generals] discussed with the General Staff further information about a coordinated approach to eliminating the PKK/KADEK in northern Iraq,” Mr. Pearson told reporters in Ankara after the departure of the Central Command chief, Gen. John Abizaid.

Turkey has stationed thousands of its soldiers just inside Iraq since the 1991 Persian Gulf war in a controversial deployment it says is critical to stopping hundreds of PKK and KADEK guerrillas returning to mount attacks on Turkish targets.

The soldiers’ presence has done little to defuse diplomatic tensions first sparked by Turkey’s refusal in March to allow the United States to invade Iraq from its southern border.


Heathrow airport staff ends walkout

LONDON — British Airways ground staff at London’s Heathrow airport returned to work yesterday after a 24-hour walkout that stranded about 80,000 travelers.

A spokeswoman for the airline said the workers, who were protesting a new time-clock system, had returned, but it could take two days to clear a backlog of flights.

The airline canceled more than 360 flights, mostly to domestic and European destinations, on Friday and Saturday.

“We are doing everything we can to resume normal services today although we expect to be very busy dealing with the backlog of customers and baggage,” said Mike Street, the airline’s director of customer service.

Weekly notes …

Jeremy Greenstock, the eloquent British diplomat who took the U.S.-British case for war to the Security Council, may hold the key to healing wounds the Iraq conflict created among the world powers.

As the newly appointed second-in-command civilian in the U.S. coalition in Iraq, Mr. Greenstock will likely push for the kind of U.N. involvement the Bush administration had earlier shunned but the rest of the Security Council is hoping for.

“If I have anything to do with it, the U.N. will be a central player in those areas where it has genuine experience and expertise to offer,” he told U.N. reporters at a farewell gathering on Friday.

He even envisioned a return of international weapons inspectors.

After five years as Britain’s ambassador to the United Nations, Mr. Greenstock will leave the post next week to become a deputy to L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. occupation governor in Iraq.

Mr. Greenstock, a fluent speaker of Arabic who held several posts in the Middle East, is one of the most well-respected and well-liked diplomats on the Security Council.

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