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U.S. Reportedly Blocked Bid for Muslim Forces

From Newsday

President Bush rebuffed a plan last month for a Muslim peacekeeping force that would have helped the United Nations organize elections in Iraq, according to Saudi and Iraqi officials.

The U.N. has a skeletal presence in Iraq, with only four employees working full time preparing for January elections.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has refused to establish a new headquarters in Baghdad unless countries commit troops for a special force to protect it.

Saudi leaders, including Crown Prince Abdullah, lobbied Bush to sign off on the plan to establish a contingent of several hundred troops from Arab and Muslim nations. Abdullah discussed the plan in a 10-minute phone conversation with Bush on July 28 after meeting with Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, Saudi officials familiar with the negotiations said.

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Diplomats said Annan had accepted the plan. But the U.S. objected because the force would have been controlled by the U.N. instead of by U.S. military officers. Muslim and Arab countries, however, refused to work under U.S. command, and the initiative died in September.

The White House confirmed Friday that the U.S. military objected to the plan. “It was a serious issue for commanders,” said a spokesman who refused to be named.


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