Washington briefing: Bush thanks Armenia for Iraq war role

by Emil Sanamyan

Published: Wednesday January 14, 2009

U.S. President George W. Bush thanks Iraq coalition countries in a speech at U.S. Central Command headquarters, May 1, 2007. The Armenian flag is next to the U.S.flag. White House photo

Washington - President George W. Bush expressed the "deep gratitude of the United States" for Armenia's contribution to the U.S.-led Iraq coalition in a letter released by the office of Armenia's President Serge Sargsian on January 13.

The letter noted "particular appreciation for the transportation and convoy security, de-mining, and medical support" that the 46-person Armenian peacekeeping unit provided.

Armenia did not support the U.S. military invasion of Iraq in 2003, but soon after, the Armenian government agreed to join the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq with a peacekeeping unit. The deployment went ahead despite concerns that the Iraqi-Armenian community, numbering tens of thousands, could be targeted as a result.

In the period of deployment from early 2005 until late 2008, several hundred Armenian military men served in Iraq, with one officer seriously wounded in action.

Mr. Bush's letter said also that "the United States looks forward to pursuing further cooperation with Armenia on other common interests within the South Caucasus region and around the world."

The letter was the second known communication from President Bush to President Sargsian since the Armenian president's election in February. Last September, while presenting her credentials to Mr. Sargsian, U.S. ambassador to Armenia Marie Yovanovitch transmitted President Bush's message of congratulations on Armenia's Independence Day.

President Bush spent the last weeks of his presidency defending his record amid the worsening global economic crisis and continuing U.S. occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq. He also thanked foreign leaders who were his closest allies and otherwise assisted U.S. efforts worldwide.

On January 14, President Bush awarded the highest U.S. civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, to former British prime minister Tony Blair, the former Australian prime minister, and the president of Colombia.

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