Latvian Troops to Join US Bandwagon in Iraq

Latvia would be prepared to send several dozen soldiers to Iraq in the event of war if the US and its allies expressed such a wish. Latvian Prime Minister Einars Repse made this announcement yesterday at a cabinet meeting. The Latvian parliament will make a decision on sending Latvian troops to Iraq in an extraordinary session today.

However, Repse added that Latvian troops would not take part in 'the first, active invasion phase,' but would provide assistance 'in the process of democratizing Iraq.' The prime minister believes that sappers, medical staff and other specialist troops could be sent to the crisis area. He admitted that 'large countries can, of course, get by without Latvian help, but this symbolic support will have great significance if Latvia later needs international support.'

In Repse's opinion, all diplomatic possibilities for resolving the crisis have been exhausted. 'If all countries had taken up a common position with regard to disarming Iraq, it might have been possible to resolve the crisis through peaceful means,' he said. Latvia is one of the countries supporting the US in its plans to invade Iraq.