Bush wants $400 million fund to reward Iraq, Afghan allies
President Bush is asking Congress to set up a $400 million fund to reward nations that have taken political and economic risks to join U...
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — President Bush is asking Congress to set up a $400 million fund to reward nations that have taken political and economic risks to join U.S.-led coalitions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The White House announced the fund, dubbed the "solidarity initiative," after Bush's meeting yesterday with Aleksander Kwasniewski, the president of Poland, a nation that is to receive one-fourth of the money.
The $400 million request is part of the $80 billion supplemental war funding request Bush will send to Congress next week.
"Poland has been a fantastic ally because the president and the people of Poland love freedom," Bush said during his Oval Office meeting with Kwasniewski, a staunch ally in the Iraq war. "I know the people of your country must have been thrilled when the millions of people went to the polls" in Iraq.
Poland has taken command of a multinational security force in central Iraq that now includes about 6,000 troops — among them more than 2,400 Polish soldiers. Kwasniewski told reporters outside the White House that a reduction this month will leave Poland with 1,700 troops in Iraq, but he said the 700 other troops would remain ready in Poland to be immediately deployed to Iraq if needed.
Administration officials declined to say which other nations would benefit from the fund, partly designed to reward allies and coax them to stay in the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq. Spain, Singapore, Nicaragua, New Zealand, Thailand, Philippines, Norway and Honduras have left the coalition.
One administration official said the fund was designed to provide help to Eastern European nations, such as Ukraine, Hungary, Romania and the Baltic states. Bush is meeting March 9 at the White House with Traian Basescu, the president of Romania, which has an estimated 700 troops in Iraq.
Since Iraq's Jan. 30 elections, the administration has focused intently on attracting new support for Iraq.
Bush has spoken by phone with coalition members that have troops in Iraq. Yesterday he called Anders Fogh Rasmussen, prime minister of Denmark, which has about 500 troops there.
"They agreed on the importance of continuing international support in Iraq while working to train and equip Iraqis to assume greater responsibility and ultimately provide for their own security," said Scott McClellan, White House press secretary.
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