from Agence France Presse on Monday, January 06, 2003
A group of American experts preparing the training of up to 3,000 Iraqi exiles as interpreters for US forces in a possible conflict with Iraq arrived Monday in Hungary, the defence ministry said.
“A group of up to 30 logistical experts have arrived at the southern Taszar military base by civilian transport to prepare the base for the actual training,” defence ministry spokesman Istvan Bocskai told AFP.
“From today, military aircraft will bring in more groups of logistical experts, as well as trainers, guards and security people,” he said. The first groups arriving in Hungary are to extend a tent city that flanks the military airport in Taszar and can currently accommodate around 1,000 people.
The actual training begins at the end of January or the beginning of February, Bocskai said.
Under an accord between the United States and Hungary, a NATO ally since 1999, “no more than 3,000” Iraqi exiles are to be trained here as interpreters, assistants in humanitarian activities and other support personnel for a possible war on Iraq.
There will be a “maximum of 2,000” trainers, logistical experts and security guards working with the exiles, according to Bocskai.
The first groups of trainers and trainees will arrive in Taszar from Europe, but troops will later also arrive from the United States, Bocskai said.
Hungary agreed in December a US plan to train Iraqi exiles in basic military techniques, interpreting skills, developing military-civilian ties and police skills on its territory before the end of 2003.
The training sessions are to take 90 days and the base will be secured by both US and Hungarian troops, Bocskai said.
The exiles belong to the US Army, live in the United States and Europe and are people of Arab origin, Bocskai said. It is not necessary to be a US citizen to belong to the country’s army.
The Pentagon said last month it had released more than nine million dollars (8.7 million euros) for training Iraqi exiles to play a role in their country in the event of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s ouster.
The Taszar base, 200 kilometres (120 miles) southwest of Budapest, served as a rear base for US peacekeepers during the Balkan wars in the 1990s even before Hungary became a NATO member in 1999.
It currently accommodates some 70 US SFOR peacekeeping troops for Bosnia-Hercegovina supported by some 120 civilian personnel.
“The training operations of Iraqi exiles within the base will be entirely separate from the activity of the SFOR troops,” said Bocskai.
Copyright 2003 Agence France Presse.