France Sends Chemical, Bacteriological, and Nuclear
Detection/Decontamination Team to Qatar
Sat Mar 22, 8:00 AM ET

PARIS (Reuters) - France, a staunch opponent of war in Iraq, said on Saturday it would send personnel and chemical, bacteriological and nuclear detection equipment to Qatar, fulfilling a defense pact with the emirate.

The French defense ministry said the move followed a request from Qatar, host to the war command center of General Tommy Franks, overall controller of U.S. and allied forces, and a visit to the emirate on March 16 by Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie.

The deployment, to leave on Saturday, was a result of "defense agreements and to respond favorably to all requests from Qatar to ensure the protection of its territory and population," the ministry said in a statement.

A spokesman said 39 personnel and at least four vehicles were in the army's nuclear, bacteriological and chemical unit, based in Draguignan in southern France.

They would help with detection and possible decontamination.

Alliot-Marie said during her visit to the Qatari capital Doha that in the event of war, France was ready to help Gulf countries with which it has defense pacts to protect themselves, for example from chemical attack.