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ARAB-US RELATIONS - Dec 1 - US To Add To Troop Strength In Iraq.

US Defence officials say the military will temporarily increase its troop strength in Iraq to about 150,000 from 138,000 to provide extra security for Iraqi elections set for Jan 30. The increase will be achieved by keeping thousands of US soldiers in Iraq for short-term extensions of current yearlong deployments even after their replacements arrive this month and in early January for a previously scheduled rotation, according to the officials, who asked not to be named. The move will include a temporary deployment to Iraq of about 1,500 elite 82nd Airborne Division soldiers from Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The military sent 1,100 82nd Airborne soldiers to Afghanistan in September to boost security for the presidential election there. Polling took place in Afghanistan on Oct 9 with little violence. A military official said some army soldiers whose scheduled departures out of Iraq were being postponed in order to increase the overall troop levels would serve somewhat longer than the one-year duty in Iraq that Pentagon leaders had promised them. The Pentagon temporarily raised the US military presence in Iraq by about 20,000 troops last spring, to provide security for the handover of sovereignty to Iraq. It then delayed the scheduled departure of some troops by three months and hastening the arrival of others. Senior military officers scheduled a Pentagon briefing on the increased presence in Iraq. Gen John Abizaid, who as head of Central Command is the top US commander in the region, had said more troops would be needed to safeguard the election, but that would be achieved primarily through more US-trained Iraqi security forces. The Pentagon has acknowledged previous broad problems in training and equipping Iraqi forces. Support for election date The Iraqi Pres Ghazi Al Yawar, a Sunni, said Dec 1 that elections should be held on time, giving key support to the timetable despite violence in large parts of the country and calls by some powerful Sunnis to postpone the vote, news agencies reported. PM Ayad Allawi, meanwhile, met with Iraqi Sunni tribal leaders in Jordan, and tried to drum up support for the Jan 30 elections, seen as vital for building a democratic government in Iraq. Allawi held talks with figures who were powerful in the Sunni regions of central Iraq where opposition to his US-backed administration is strong and insurgent violence has been fiercest. He met dozens of Iraqi tribal chiefs, businessmen and politicians, most of them Sunni Muslims, in a heavily guarded five-star hotel in Amman before heading for talks with King Abdullah II of Jordan, who lent his backing for the elections. The head of a key Sunni tribe from the western province of Anbar was among those who spoke with Allawi. The province is home to the Sunni stronghold of Falluja, where US-led forces began a massive onslaught last month to crush an insurgency. Allawi will head to Germany and Russia on Dec 2 to meet more Iraqi exiles and to enlist their participation in the elections, his spokesman said. In Baghdad, Yawar, who wields considerable influence among Sunni tribal figures, especially in the north of the country, said that he opposed any election delay. In continuing violence, a suicide bomber blew up his vehicle Dec 1 at an Iraqi checkpoint near Iskandariya, a town 60km, south of Baghdad. Seven Iraqis were wounded, the American military said.
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Publication:APS Diplomat Recorder
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 4, 2004
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