May 15, 2019 / 11:41 AM / 3 months ago

German, Dutch military suspend training operations in Iraq amid U.S.-Iran tensions

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany and the Netherlands said on Wednesday they were suspending military training operations in Iraq as the United States warned of increased threats from Iran-backed forces amid an escalation of tensions between Washington and Tehran.

A German defence ministry spokesman said Berlin had no indications of its own of any impending attacks on Western interests by Iran and said the training programmes could resume in the coming days.

A Dutch government source also announced a suspension of military training operations, citing an unspecified security threat.

Germany has 160 soldiers involved in training Iraqi forces trying to contain Islamic State militants. The Netherlands has 169 military and civilian personnel in Iraq, including about 50 in Erbil, where they are helping to train Kurdish troops.

Dutch news agency ANP said Dutch forces had been ordered to remain indoors since Sunday.

Earlier on Wednesday the U.S. State Department ordered the pullout of some employees from both its embassy in Baghdad and its consulate in Erbil.

The order came as tensions build up between the United States and Iran. Washington has applied new sanctions pressure on Tehran and sent additional forces to the Middle East, saying there is an increased threat from Iran to U.S. interests there.

Reporting by Tassilo Hummel and Sabine Siebold; Additional reporting by Anthony Deutsch and Toby Sterling in Amsterdam; Editing by Madeline Chambers and Gareth Jones

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