19 October 2004
The Azerbaijani Defense Minister Safar Abiyev attended a meeting of defense ministers of the anti-terror coalition member-states at the Kennedy Air Base in the Persian Gulf in Bahrain on October 9-10.
The meeting, attended by representatives of 17 countries, including USA, Bulgaria, Romania, Poland, Denmark, Albania, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Czech Republic, Macedonia, Hungary, Ukraine, Georgia, and Bahrain, most of which adhere to anti-Russian positions, was held in unofficial atmosphere.
Minister Abiyev's visit to Bahrain, which took place on the invitation of his US counterpart Donald Rumsfeld, came a day after US ambassador to Azerbaijan Reno Harnish met with the Azeri vice-speaker, chairman of the permanent parliament commission on defense and security Ziyafat Asgarov.
Harnish thanked Azerbaijan for its contribution to peace-keeping in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kosovo. The ambassador also stated that his country is interested in Azerbaijan's stepping up its peace-keeping efforts and that Washington is ready to provide the needed assistance in this area.
Other US officials have also in the past stated that USA is interested in the expansion of Azerbaijan's military contingent in Iraq. Experts say that this was one of the issues discussed at the afore-mentioned meeting of defense ministers.
Some reports suggest that the United States will propose to bring Azeri contingent in Iraq from 151 to 300 soldiers.