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Of nations supporting U.S. attack, few offering troops for battle

WASHINGTON—As the United States prepared for war with Iraq, Secretary of State Colin Powell on Tuesday said a coalition of 30 nations was supplying support that ranged from use of bases and airspace to experts in chemical weapons attacks.

Powell said 15 other nations privately back an attack on Iraq.

However, apart from Britain, which has sent 45,000 troops to reinforce more than 250,000 American troops in the Gulf, few nations have offered to provide a major military presence.

Spain, which supported the U.S.-led war plan, bowed to widespread antiwar sentiment at home and decided not to play a direct role in attacking Iraq. Spain will send a hospital ship, a mine-clearing unit, chemical detection experts, a frigate and an oil tanker. These tasks will involve about 900 military personnel.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard pledged 2,000 troops, fighter jets and warships. The troops already in the Gulf will fight with U.S. and British forces but will operate under a separate command.

"It's definitely not George Bush's father's coalition," said Patrick Garrett of, a Washington-based public policy group that has been monitoring the military buildup. The first President Bush was lauded during the 1991 Persian Gulf War for building a broad-based alliance to evict Iraq from Kuwait.

The State Department defines coalition allies broadly, Garrett said. "If they allow overflight or allow forces to be staged from their countries, they are considered part of the coalition."

Call it the coalition of the anonymous. So far, many of the countries that have thrown their support behind the United States haven't gone out of their way to publicize their contributions. The Pentagon won't say which or how many countries plan to send troops to Iraq.

One analyst expects more nations to join coalition forces now that the United States has made clear it intends to go to war despite the failure to win U.N. support.

"It is my guess that in the next 24 hours you are going to see people volunteering," said Frank Gaffney, president of the Center for Security Policy, a Washington-based public policy group that advocates a strong military. "It is the moment when you see people deciding, `Do I want to be on the side of the loser? Or do I want to be with the winner?'"

Most nations have deployed non-combat troops in largely symbolic fashion. Poland has offered 200 troops, and Albania has offered 70 soldiers for non-combat roles. Denmark has offered military and medical personnel aboard a small warship and a submarine. The Latvian government has sought authorization from parliament to deploy a small number of troops.

A number of European nations, including Germany, which opposed military action in Iraq, have sent chemical weapons specialists to help protect coalition troops and civilians from attack. The Czech Republic, Slovakia and Germany have each contributed about 200 soldiers. Bulgaria also has offered to send sent non-combat troops specializing in chemical and biological warfare decontamination. Romania has offered 278 non-combat nuclear, biological and chemical decontamination specialists, military police troops and de-mining units. The Ukraine also may send chemical specialists to join the task force.

No Arab countries—even Kuwait and Qatar, both staging areas for U.S. troops massing for an invasion of Iraq—are on the State Department's list of coalition forces. "A lot who live in the neighborhood do not want to be identified as Saddam's opponents until they're sure that he's gone," Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said last week.

Gulf countries will likely contribute to coalition forces if only to defend their own territory from Iraqi counterstrikes, Garrett said.

Also missing from the State Department coalition list, points out Garrett, is the United States' main ally in the Middle East, Israel. "Putting Israel on the list would have ticked everyone off," he said.


(c) 2003, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.