Iraq rejects Musharraf’s Muslim peacekeepers proposal

Islamabad, May 17 (IANS) Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari has rejected a Pakistani proposal for a Muslim peacekeeping force to be sent to Iraq, saying “my government’s position is not for welcoming any more troops.”

Zebari, who is here to attend the foreign ministers’ meet of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC), made the statement after a meeting with his Iranian counterpart Manouchehr Mottaki when the two discussed the upcoming security talks in Baghdad involving Iraq, Iran and the US.

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President Pervez Musharraf floated the proposal on Tuesday while opening the OIC meet.

He said a “Muslim peacekeeping force” should be sent to Iraq to pull the country out of “chaos and anarchy”. His proposal was subject to a UN mandate and acceptance by all parties involved in Iraq.

“We have reservations on this proposal,” Zebari told reporters Wednesday, adding his government had objected to such suggestions in the past as well.

Zebari said his government wanted Iraqi troops to look after the country’s security when the US and its allies attack the nation.

Musharraf’s proposal was also criticised by sections of the Pakistani media.

“We are sure he realises that a Muslim force is the last thing the Iraqis will accept,” said The Daily Times in an editorial Thursday.

“One has to remind the president that the Islamic world is a reality not an invocation of his imagination, and the reality is an Islamic upsurge throughout the Islamic world that has become sectarian in nature,” the editorial said.

It surmised that any “Muslim force” would result in “Muslims killing Muslims.”

“A Muslim international force will have first to be sorted out on the basis of sect and, since the neighbours whom the president wants out will be excluded, most of the Muslim force will be Sunni. That will be like pouring oil on the fire of Iraq. Pakistan has had a taste of that in Somalia in 1993. The idea is therefore a non-starter,” the newspaper said.

Meanwhile, 250 Pakistani peacekeepers left for Liberia, the west African nation with a significant Muslim population that has been having prolonged strife.

These troops will replace the already deputed Pakistan Army contingent in the war-ravaged country as part of a relieve and rotation schedule.

Pakistan Army has in the recent years been engaged in peacekeeping duties under the UN mandate in many countries including Somalia, Eastern Slovenia, Bosnia, Haiti, East Timor, Congo and Sierra Leone.