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Yemen Willing to Send Troops to Iraq

Yemen (search) is willing to send peacekeeping forces to Iraq, but only if they form part of a force that is under U.N. control, Foreign Ministry officials said Friday.

The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Associated Press that Yemen was discussing plans to send forces to Iraq now that sovereignty has been transferred to an interim Iraqi government.

But any deployment must have U.N. backing and the forces would have to be under the control of the world body, the officials added. They provided no timeframe.

The U.N. Security Council (search) adopted a resolution June 8 authorizing the multinational force in Iraq to remain to help provide security. The resolution encourages other countries to join the force, which is led by the United States, and Washington has been hoping that Arab countries will contribute troops.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan (search) has repeatedly ruled out sending U.N. peacekeeping troops to Iraq.

Yemen's move follows that of Jordan's, whose ruler, King Abdullah II, said a day earlier that his country might become the first Arab state to send troops to Iraq.

Abdullah told the British Broadcasting Corp. "Newsnight" program: "I presume that if the Iraqis ask us for help directly, it would be very difficult for us to say no."

In Washington, White House spokesman Scott McClellan refused to say whether the United States is expecting troops from those two countries.

Although the United States runs security in Iraq, with 160,000 soldiers on the ground, McClellan said the question of outside troops was strictly the subject of discussions between Iraq and its two Arab neighbors.

But, he said the possibility of two countries sending troops was "another sign the international community is standing with the Iraqi people."

Iraqi authorities have said they would welcome troops from other Arab and Muslim countries but not from those that border Iraq.

Yemen also is considering sending forces to the African nation of Sudan to operate in a similar peacekeeping capacity and under U.N. authority, the officials said.

They did not elaborate on why the government would send troops to Sudan, but they apparently were referring to the humanitarian crisis in the country's western state of Darfur.

Annan — who is in Sudan on a three-week tour of the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Europe — has raised the possibility of sending international troops to Darfur if Sudan's government cannot safeguard the people of the region.

Human rights groups accuse the Sudanese government of backing militias of Arab herders, known as the Janjaweed, in a campaign to forcibly remove African farming communities from the vast western region where they have coexisted for centuries.