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Europe

Summit to Discuss More EU Involvement in Iraq

Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi has accepted Brussels' invitation to attend an EU summit in November to discuss stepping up Europe's role in the reconstruction of Iraq.

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Aid packets from the EU are not uncommon at Baghdad's airport

The invitation was extended by Dutch Foreign Minister Ben Bot, whose country currently holds the rotating EU presidency. An Iraqi spokesman said Allawi and Iraqi President Ghazi al-Yawar are "very interested" in cooperation with the EU.

The EU summit on November 5 is expected to discuss increased European involvement in war-torn Iraq, both in terms of funds as well as aiding in nation-building.

Der lachende irakische Premierminister Iyad Allawi

Iraqi interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi

The invitation follows the visit to Iraq over the weekend by a high-ranking EU delegation headed by Bot, the first of its kind since the interim government of Iyad Allawi (photo) took office on June 28.

The visit was to meant explore ways of how the European Union could help the rebuilding of war-ravaged Iraq as well as aid the country in the democratization process, install the rule of law and protect human rights.

Bot met with top Iraqi leaders including Iraqi President Ghazi al-Yawar and Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari.

Improved security, more aid

Speaking in Baghdad on Sunday, Bot said that improved security in Iraq had opened the way for the EU to discuss intensified reconstruction efforts.

"Now that the security conditions have improved, it is easier to provide this aid," Bot said during the one-day visit. "This includes the democratic process, helping Iraq establish a judiciary system, training forces and providing scholarships," he said. The Netherlands has some 1,300 troops stationed in southern Iraq.

Bot also said he would meet with European counterparts to push for increased engagement in Iraq, including efforts to train Iraqi police and civil servants.

"Not a secure environment"

At the same time, both sides indicated they had no illusions about the fragility of the security situation.

Shiiten im Irak

Fighters loyal to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr during clashes with U.S. forces and Iraqi National guards in the holy Muslim city of Najaf.

With clashes continuing between US forces and Iraqi militia across the country and the latest kidnapping of two French journalists by Iraqi militants hitting the headlines, Iraqi Foreign Minister Zebari said, "It is not a secure environment." He added, "We are not trying to underestimate the dangers they (foreigners) are facing."

However, Zebari urged the EU to redouble efforts to rebuild Iraq, saying it was crucial to restoring stability. "There are many ways in which I believe the European Union can provide assistance," Zebari said.

The EU in the past had said it is prepared to do that, but made it conditional that security improved first.

The 25-member bloc has committed €305 million ($371 million) in humanitarian and reconstruction aid for Iraq this year. A similar commitment is expected next year. The amounts are in addition to the various donations already provided by individual member states.

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