21 Jun 2004

51 Fiji soldiers due to act as body guards to UN officials in Iraq

7:30 am on 21 June 2004

A detachment of 51 regular troops from the Fiji army are expected to leave for Iraq before the end of June to act as "personal protection officers" for senior United Nations officials.

Fiji TV reports the deployment is part of the handing over of authority from US-led coalition forces to the Iraqi interim government on July the 1st.

In addition to normal military training and overseas service experience, the troops have been given an additional two months training in martial arts, specialist weapons handling and threat assessment.

Their names have been sent to the UN in New York for final approval and deployment assignments.

Meanwhile, the deployment of another 500 former Fiji soldiers who were to fly to Iraq this month on security duties for the British company, Global Risk Strategies, has been put on hold.

This follows intervention by the labour minister, Kenneth Zinck, who wants all new contracts by the soldiers signed in Fiji with his ministry's approval.