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Last Updated:  Friday, 21 March, 2003, 15:08 GMT
US says 'coalition of willing' grows

By Steve Schifferes
BBC News Online in Washington

George Bush in Oval Office, 20 March 2002
George Bush: coalition is growing
The United States says that a growing number of countries are publicly supporting American action against Iraq.

President George W Bush said after a Cabinet meeting on Thursday that "over 40 nations now support our efforts. We are grateful for their determination, we appreciate their vision and we welcome their support".

Earlier, the president's spokesman, Ari Fleischer, said that the "coalition of the willing" was made up of countries of every race and faith, on every continent, with a population of 1.2bn and a GDP of $21 trillion.

And Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said it was larger than that assembled during the first Gulf War in 1991.

Later on Thursday the White House released the latest list, which expanded on the list of 30 coalition members that the State Department had made public on Tuesday.

But most of new additions are small countries with close ties to the US.

And the White House said that the new list included countries which offered "political support", a broader category than the earlier list, which included countries offering "material assistance".

The biggest addition to the list is Portugal, host of the Azores summit between the US, Britain and Spain last weekend.

Arab absence

Remarkably, only one Arab state - Kuwait - is prepared to publicly associate itself with the US action or admit that it is providing bases or over-flight rights for US troops.

The list is most extraordinary for the countries that are left off - which include nearly all of the Arab states, even those countries like Qatar and Bahrain, where US and British forces have been based ahead of the invasion.

With feelings running high in the Arab world against invading Iraq, presumably these countries felt it wise not to be publicly identified with the US action.

Nor is the main US ally in the Middle East, Israel, mentioned.

And traditional US Arab allies, like Egypt and Saudi Arabia, clearly did not want to associate themselves with military action against Saddam Hussein.

The US government says that there are 10 other countries who do not want to be publicly identified who are helping US efforts.

Comparison to 1991

In contrast, the 1991 Gulf War coalition included 34 countries, many of whom provided substantial military assistance, and many of whom were from the Arab world.

Twenty-one of those 34 countries do not support US efforts this time, including France, which sent 17,000 troops, and Syria, which sent 19,000 troops in 1991.

This time, only Britain and Australia are offering substantial military assistance.

The 1991 coalition total also does not include countries like Japan, which provided $4bn to fund the coalition efforts, and does not include many more countries which offered political support.

Range of support

The current list includes countries which want no military role but would provide assistance with reconstruction efforts.

In the latter category are Japan and South Korea, which are only prepared to provide post-conflict financial support for the reconstruction of Iraq.

Many of the countries on the list are from Eastern Europe, where countries like Romania are providing basing rights, while Poland has offered 200 troops and the Czech Republic and Slovakia are sending chemical-biological warfare support units.

Many of these are seeking US financial or military support through Nato.

The US was surprisingly unsuccessful in gaining any allies in its traditional backyard of Latin America.

Only five small central American and Caribbean nations, and Colombia - where the US is funding a huge anti-drugs war - were prepared to be identified with the US coalition.

And it was hardly surprising that a number of tiny Pacific islands that had been US protectorates had offered symbolic support

Full list of coalition countries:

Afghanistan, Albania, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Colombia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Georgia, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, the Philippines, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Turkey, United Kingdom and Uzbekistan.

Additions: Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Kuwait, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Mongolia, Palau, Portugal, Rwanda, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Uganda

Source: US State Department, White House

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