Iraq wants Danish troops to stay, Denmark's foreign minister says

The Iraqi government has asked Denmark to keep its troops in Iraq, despite demands for a withdrawal by a provincial council angered over the Prophet Muhammad cartoons, the foreign minister said.

"What we have learned is that the Iraqi government asks us to stay. They believe that Danish soldiers are doing a very brave job, and an honorable job that they ask us to continue," Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller  told Danish broadcaster, DR, late Wednesday.

The provincial council in Basra, where the 530-strong Danish contingent is based, on Tuesday demanded the withdrawal of Danish troops unless the government apologizes for the cartoons, which were first published in a Danish newspaper.

The demand was rejected by the government in Copenhagen, which asked Baghdad for a clarification on whether Danish troops were still wanted in Iraq. Moeller said the government received a reply on Wednesday.

"This must also mean that the Iraqi government tells those people in Basra, who have been of a different opinion, that this is the Iraqi government's opinion and it was elected by the Iraqi people," Moeller said.

The drawings published by newspaper Jyllands-Posten in September have sparked angry protests, sometimes violent, in Muslim countries that have called on Denmark to apologize, reports the AP.

I.L.