US to pour more troops into Iraq

  • ASEAN+
  • Saturday, 20 Dec 2003

BAGHDAD: The United States said on Thursday it will pour more troops into Iraq after another US soldier died there in a roadside ambush and Russia agreed to consider reducing Iraq's crippling debt. 

Senior defence officials said Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld approved the deployment of an extra brigade of the elite 82nd Airborne Division to Iraq next month and extended the tour of duty of another brigade to maintain combat power as other forces are rotated out. 

The deployment would increase the total size of the US force in Iraq by a couple of thousand troops over a three-month period during which the entire force would be replaced with fresh units, the officials said. 

Gen John Abizaid, commander of the US Central Command, had asked for the deployment of the 82nd Airborne's 1st Brigade after deciding that an infantry brigade of the Washington National Guard that was to have deployed to Iraq in January needed more training. 

Meanwhile, special US envoy James Baker pressed on with his tour of Europe to convince countries to lower Iraq's US$120bil (RM456bil) debt, winning a pledge by Russia to consider such a move. 

Following a meeting with Baker, Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a rare, scathing attack on the United States for waging war in Iraq, but said Russia was prepared to take part in international talks by creditor nations on easing the debt. 

Baker also won a promise from British Prime Minister Tony Blair that London would keep lobbying other nations to reduce the debt, following similar promises of support from Germany and Italy. 

In Washington, a cloud formed over the future of the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq after press reports said top US arms inspector David Kay may quit before his inquest force's work is finished. 

The 1,400-member Iraq Survey Group that Kay heads has failed so far to find any of the banned weapons that President George W. Bush cited as justification for war against Iraq. – AFP  

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