9 Sep 2004

Fiji asked to give UN protection in Baghdad

2:41 pm on 9 September 2004

The Fiji military says it's been asked to send peacekeepers to Iraq by the end of this month to guard the new United Nations' headquarters there.

The UN quit Iraq after the bombing of its Baghdad headquarters in August last year, which killed at least 20 people, including Special Envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello.

The Fiji military says the Military Commander, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, and the Home Affairs Minister, Joketani Cokanasiga, are in New York now discussing a UN request for peacekeepers.

The Fiji government has confirmed it is considering the request.

The military spokesman, Neumi Leweni, says the Cabinet is expected to approve the request within days.

"They have indicated that they have endorsed it, but there are still some issues that need to be discussed before it is actually put down on paper. It's to do with the equipment and the allowances, the normal."

Captain Leweni says, depending on the Cabinet decision, an advance group of protection officers is expected to leave Fiji for Iraq next week.

He says their job will be to protect UN VIPs who he says are moving back into Iraq, although it is not clear where they will be based.

Captain Leweni says the Fijian peacekeepers will be drawn from those who have served in Lebanon.

The peacekeepers, if they go, will not receive special training before leaving.

Captain Leweni says they know about the dangers Iraq poses but can handle it.