Ukraine`s President Viktor Yushchenko ordered 15 peacekeepers to Iraq on Friday, in an apparent effort to win further support from Washington for its bid to join NATO, AP reports.

Yushchenko`s office said the troops will serve as part of an international peacekeeping mission in Iraq.

Ukraine has made joining NATO a priority, but its request for a roadmap to membership was turned down at the alliance`s summit in Bucharest earlier this month. Germany, France and some other nations feared the move would anger Russia, which has watched Ukraine`s NATO bid with dismay.

US President George W. Bush has strongly supported Ukraine`s NATO aspirations.

During a visit to Kyiv on the eve of the NATO summit, Bush praised Ukraine as the only non-NATO state contributing to all the group`s missions.

Ukraine had deployed troops in Iraq in 2003-2005 but withdrew them amid public protests.

AP, Kyiv Post