Iceland’s Minister of Agriculture and Vice Chairman of the Progressive Party, Gudni Agústsson, told the Icelandic press yesterday that for the last three years the Bush administration had been “leading the Icelandic government on”.
Icelandic National Broadcasting Service, RÚV, quoted Ágústsson saying that the US had been “ruthless and rough” toward Iceland in how it had conducted the US-Iceland Defense Agreement negotiations. He said that since Bush came to power relations with the US government had deteriorated.
Referring to how the US announced its unilateral decision to withdraw the bulk of its forces from Iceland, Ágústsson said, “the civilized thing to do is to finish negotiations” adding that “a government led by the Democrats would not have treated Icelanders in this way.”
Ágústsson also said he found it difficult to see how one could stick to the Defense Agreement by removing “the most important part of the Defense Force and then some”. “A Defense Agreement without defenses hardly adds up,” said Ágústsson.
Yesterday, the Icelandic press reported that Prime Minister Halldór Ásgrímsson, also from the Progressive Party, is waiting for a response to a letter he sent President George W. Bush last Thursday.
When asked about the contents of the letter, Ásgrímsson told reporters that the letter first and foremost reviewed the issue at hand and asked what the US has in mind.
“It is necessary that they make clear what they want to do. We have asked that question for many years. It is completely correct that, for a long time, they have wanted to take the jets from Iceland, we have not vetoed that [the jets] be removed if it becomes clear how [the US] intends to defend Iceland in a visible way, but that question has never been answered,” said Halldór Ásgrímsson.
He also told the press that it was “completely necessary” to involve NATO.
The Prime Minister said that if the Defense Agreement was to be worth the paper it is written on the US needed to have visible defenses in the country, some “symbols of their obligations”.
The Prime Minister used the opportunity to quote the former US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, who once told him that the jets were symbols of the US’s obligations to Iceland.