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US Planning to Build 14 Bases in Iraq: Finnish MP

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(MENAFN - Arab News) HELSINKI, 17 October 2007 - The United States is planning to stay in Iraq by building as many as 14 "permanent" bases, regardless of whether orders come from current or future US administrations to bring US troops back home. "As far I am informed, they are planning to set up permanent bases. Not only one, two, three, four, but maybe 14," Finnish MP Jaakko Laakso told a group of Saudi journalists, which included Arab News, who visited the Finnish Parliament recently in Helsinki. "It means there will be no withdrawal on a permanent basis."

The MP, who is a member of the Left Alliance, pointed out that the bases were not the bases the US government plans to build between the Iraq and Syria borders, but were permanent bases located in the heartland of the country. "There is no difference between Republicans and Democrats regarding these permanent bases," Laakso added.

Asked what the European Union thought of the establishment of permanent American bases in Iraq, he said it was up to every European country to state its own opinion on the matter. He did say, however, that he doubted there would be any criticism from the European Union regarding the permanent bases. "In spite of the United States keeping permanent bases in Iraq, there would be no heavy criticism from the European Union," he said.

Several political analysts have said that the bases aim at maintaining US control over the Middle East and its massive oil resources. Opening permanent bases in Iraq would also mean extra costs as funds would be needed for combat pay, rotating forces home, separation allowances for military families, as well as fuel for planes and tanks. So far, the Iraq war has cost the United States at least $280 billion.

Commenting on his views of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the upcoming peace conference next month, the Finnish MP said he was "not optimistic" about the outcome without a full Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian occupied territories.

"The withdrawal of Israeli troops from occupied Palestinian territories is the main problem which stands in the way of establishing peace between Palestinians and Israelis," he said. "What is disturbing the region is the occupation. If that is resolved then all other obstacles will be removed."

Laakso also said that resolving the issue of Palestinian refugees was important to achieve peace between the Palestinians and Israelis. The official criticized the government of the Israeli Prime Minister Olmert, describing it as "weak". "The government cannot function...especially concerning the Jewish settlements," he said. "The release of the Palestinian prisoners is a good sign, but it is not enough. The government continues its terror policies," he went on.

Laakso said he believed that the European Union's stance not to negotiate with Hamas was a "big mistake which aggravated the situation."

Regarding the American role in the Middle East peace process, Laakso said he did not trust the Bush administration's role in the peace process. "I don't rely on anything that Bush is doing, and I don't see any prospect for his ideas," he said. He said that the lack of trust between Palestinians and Israelis was another problem, adding that Finland was playing an important role of trying to build trust between them.

On the Iranian issue, the MP said that negotiations were the only way to solve the problem.

"I hope that maybe the new president of the United States will bring some sort of positive attitude from the US side which concerns the peaceful development of the nuclear power program of Iran and recognize that the Iranians have a right to that according to international treaties," he said.

Laakso, however, said that suspicion of the Iranians still arose because of their hesitation to open their nuclear facilities to UN inspectors.

Regarding Afghanistan, the Finnish Parliament speaker said that the use of force by coalition forces had created enemies in the country, not just from the Taleban, but also from other factions of the community. "It has reached a point where it is creating more enemies than it is killing because the use of force is indiscriminate and disproportional," he said.

With regard to Finnish troops in Afghanistan, he said the United States and NATO had given Finland several solutions: One of them is to increase the number of Finnish soldiers. The other is that they take responsibility of one part of the country, among others, and to focus on reconstruction. The US also proposed to Finland that it supply the Afghan army with equipment, he said. "We agreed on some and have disagreed on others," he said. "What we have not agreed is that we see there is no military way to win this war. There is no military solution. There is only a political solution," he stressed.


:: Article nr. 37369 sent on 20-oct-2007 06:28 ECT

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