Portugal to keep Troops in Iraq

Prime Minister José Manuel Durão Barroso has confirmed that Portugal’s 135 strong GNR contingent in Iraq will stay put, despite the “repulsive” abuse of Iraqi prisoners by US soldiers. “This is degrading, repulsive and revolting behaviour. We have already communicated our revulsion at this behaviour and the need to bring to justice and punish all the authors of those vile acts, to the US authorities,” he told reporters, adding: “We think you cannot, in the name of the fight against terrorism and in favour of freedom, offend the principles and values on which we should base this fight.”

When asked if the prisoner abuse scandal would lead him to withdraw the GNR guards, who are stationed in southern Iraq under British command, the Prime Minister said: “No. One thing has nothing to do with the other. Our forces are behaving as they should.”

Durão Barroso and the government staunchly supported the US-led operation From page 1

in Iraq, but did not send troops to fight in the war. Instead, the GNR guards were sent to Iraq last November, to serve as part of a multinational peacekeeping force, which is providing security in Nasiriyah. Portugal’s presence in Iraq has always been unpopular with a large number of the population and the Prime Minister has been under growing pressure to bring home the guards since March, when Spain’s new government announced that it would withdraw its troops from the war-ravaged country. Now, nearly three out of four Portuguese people (71 per cent), want the guards to be withdrawn, according to the findings of a poll published last month.