Source Pravda.Ru

U.S. thanks Kazakhstan for contribution to peacekeeping effort in Iraq

Officials in the United States believe that the status of Kazakh officers and men serving in Iraq as part of a combat engineer battalion should be changed. The press service of Kazakhstan's Foreign Ministry reports a top U.S. State Department official as saying this Sunday.

Elizabeth Jones, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, who is currently on a two-day visit to the Kazakh capital, Astana, has thanked the host country's leadership for their contribution to peacekeeping efforts and postwar reconstruction in Iraq.

She pointed out in a statement Sunday that time had now come for revising the status of the Kazakh contingent, given the handover of power to a sovereign interim Iraqi government and the United Nations' greater role in the postwar rebuilding of Iraq, Foreign Ministry spokespeople say.

Apart from peacekeeping operations, Kazakhstan also hopes to take part in efforts to restore the Iraqi economy. In an address to Parliament this past May, Deputy Foreign Minister Makhtar Tleuberdi pointed out that the presence of a Kazakh peacekeeping contingent within the Coalition stabilization force in Iraq would bring more opportunities for Kazakh businesses to contribute to economic projects there. In his words, the possibility of Kazakh companies' involvement in the reconstruction of Iraq's economy was being considered by Iraqi authorities and, more importantly, the U.S. government, which runs most of the economic projects in that country now. The U.S. has pledged that its Coalition partners will be given priority when Iraq contracts are awarded. Kazakhstan is on the list of privileged bidders, Tleuberdi said. Speaking to parliament in May, the Deputy Foreign Minister made no secret of the fact that the decision to commit troops to the Coalition stabilization force in Iraq had been motivated in part by Kazakhstan's economic interests.

According to the Kazakh Foreign Ministry, some $55billion is to be allocated for the economic restoration of Iraq.

The Kazakh combat engineer detachment deployed in Iraq is manned with 11 officers, 4 ensigns and 11 contract soldiers. It has defused over a million explosive devices there already.