23 Sep 2004

160 Fiji soldiers prepare for Iraq deployment

1:37 pm on 23 September 2004

The Fiji military says training for 160 peacekeepers set to leave for Iraq is well under way and the men involved are looking forward to the assignment there.

The Fiji government has approved in principle sending the military peacekeepers to Iraq to guard the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad.

A military spokesman, Captain Neumi Leweni, says 160 men have been selected and are undergoing training in Fiji now to prepare them for the work.

He says there is no concern about the volatile situation in Iraq, and spirits are high about the impending deployment.

"To us is it just like another Lebanon, and the men are fairly well informed of the mission in the Middle East and they are quite keen to get out there and get on with the job."

Captain Leweni says details still being discussed include how much the men will be paid by the UN.

He says the men are expected to leave for Iraq in early October.

Meanwhile, the United States Embassy in Suva says it has not been involved in training the group but will soon resume large-scale training of Fiji peacekeepers.

Such training ended in 2000 following the coup fronted by George Speight.

An embassy official says the US wishes to ensure Fiji military peacekeepers who are posted around the world do not fall behind in terms of up-to-the-minute techniques.