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France Has No Plans to Send Troops to Iraq

January 17, 2004

PARIS (AP) _ France is interested in helping to train an Iraqi police force, but sending in a military contingent is not on the agenda now, the foreign minister said Friday.

France wants to contribute to Iraq’s security by helping to train the nation’s next generation of police officers _ once power is transferred to a sovereign Iraqi government, Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said.

``There are a number of domains of possible cooperation,″ de Villepin said in his annual address to the news media. ``France wants to give its contribution in the face of this Iraqi crisis.″

France has offered to share expertise with Iraqi police after the U.S.-led coalition hands power to an Iraqi transitional government on July 1. But he said the question of sending in French troops is ``not a current topic.″

France will continue holding a dialogue with the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council, de Villepin said.

President Jacques Chirac and de Villepin were among the leading voices against the U.S.-led war that toppled Saddam Hussein and have called for the U.S. occupation forces to turn power over to Iraqis themselves.

France has refused to participate in the multinational force responsible for security and did not pledge new aid at a donor’s conference in Madrid in October, holding back because it says the United States is moving too slowly to restore Iraqi sovereignty.

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