December 15, 2005

Egypt says US ignores offer to train Iraqi troops

By Sue Pleming

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Egypt has repeatedly offered to
train tens of thousands of Iraqi forces but Washington ignored
this offer and chose instead to criticize Cairo for not doing
enough, Egypt's envoy to the United States said.

The United States has consistently accused Arab countries,
including Egypt, of not doing enough to stabilize and rebuild
Iraq, but Egyptian Ambassador Nabil Fahmy said on Thursday this
criticism was unfounded.

"We have offered to train Iraqis for over two years," he
told reporters at a breakfast at his residence.

Fahmy said he offered Egypt's help in troop training during
discussions with officials from the Pentagon, the State
Department and members of Congress but they gave no response.

"It's got to the point that I have stopped begging," he
said. "It's mind-boggling," he added.

Asked to comment on Fahmy's complaint, a State Department
official said Iraqi troop training was a bilateral issue
between Egypt and Iraq and not the United States.

He added that the training of Iraqi forces would most
likely not be cost-efficient in Egypt.

The Pentagon did not have any immediate comment.

Fahmy said Egypt, which did not want to send its own forces
into Iraq, had the capacity to train 3,000 Iraqi troops every
three months at a school outside of Alexandria in Egypt.

So far, he said Egypt had trained 146 Iraqi forces.

"Iraqis don't want Arab forces in Iraq and we are offering
to train Iraqi forces and no one is listening," he said.

Training Iraqi forces is one of the biggest challenges
facing the United States and the ability of Iraqi security
forces is key to when more than 150,000 U.S. troops can return

Iraqis went to the polls on Thursday and Fahmy said if the
election went well this should be applauded but the real test
would be what happened in Iraq three to five years from now.

"Democracy in Iraq is not about holding elections," he
said. "The real challenge is how they look at their
constitution and how they strengthen it to make it inclusive,"
he added.

He said Egypt fully supported the U.N. investigation into
the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik
al-Hariri last February 14.

"The killings in Lebanon have to stop, no ifs, no buts," he

However, Fahmy declined to comment on whether Syria was
responsible for high-profile killings in Lebanon and said Egypt
was awaiting to hear the final outcome of the investigation.

"No one can condone these deaths but we should not jump to
conclusions until the (U.N.) report is finished," he said.