U.S. allies welcome Iraq troop increase
American allies welcomed U.S. President George W. Bush's plan to send thousands more soldiers to Iraq, offering support for the mission but no new troops of their own.
British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett said Bush's decision showed Washington is committed to the security of Iraq.
But she said her country, the largest of the coalition allies, has no plans to send more troops to Iraq.
"It is not our intention to send more troops at the present," she said.
Bush on Wednesday announced he was sending 21,500 new American soldiers to Iraq— 17,500 to Baghdad and 4,000 to Anbar province. There are already 132,000 U.S. soldiers in the country.
Most of the 7,200 British troops in Iraq arestationed in the city of Basra, which remains dangerous as Shia factions battle for control. British Prime Minister Tony Blair is expected topullalmost 3,000 outsome time this spring.
Beckett said British troops hope to hand over more control of Iraq's second largest city to Iraqi security forces.
"We are underway with a process of handover as the security situation on the ground improves," she said. "We will make our… decisions depending on the progress of those events."
Prime Minister Stephen Harper was asked what he thought of Bush's plans during a stop at Toronto's Hospital for SickChildren on Thursday.
"The Canadian government does not participate in military operations in Iraq. The decision is one to be taken by the Americans," said Harper. "Our concern is with Afghanistan."
UN's new chief urges more from Iraq
The new leader of the United Nations hinted that the United States should not bear the sole responsibility for bringing peace to Iraq.
"We hope the Iraqi government will take necessary measures to ensure their own political and social security," Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said.
"The United Nations would welcome genuine efforts to improve security for ordinary Iraqis."
Australian Prime Minister John Howard, whose country has 1,300 troops in Iraq, called the plan "very clear, calm and above all, realistic."
"If America retreats in Iraq, then that has enormous consequences for the stability of the Middle East and it will also be an enormous boost to terrorism in our part of the world," he said during a news conference in Sydney on Thursday.
Bush also spoke to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun, whose countries have contributed troops to Iraq. Both leaders offered continued support of the mission, said American officials.
"I strongly hope that the U.S. efforts toward the stability in Iraq and reconstruction will proceed effectively and bring good results," Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso said in a statement. "Japan will continue to closely communicate and co-operate with the U.S."
Japan pulled its 600 non-combat troops last year, but continues to offer air support.
South Korea's Roh "expressed support for President Bush's endeavour to bring about stability and reconstruction in Iraq," his office said. The country has 2,300 troops in the northern Iraqi city of Irbil, but are planning to withdraw almost half by April.
With files from the Associated Press