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Last Updated: Friday, 23 May, 2003, 19:22 GMT 20:22 UK
Polish Iraq force takes shape
By Nick Thorpe
BBC, Warsaw

Polish Foreign Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz with Colin Powell
Poland was faced with assembling the force from scratch
In Poland an international meeting to work out the structure of a Polish-led peacekeeping force in Iraq has ended after two days of discussions.

After a meeting in Salzburg in Austria with the Ukrainian and Bulgarian presidents, Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski announced that Ukraine and Bulgaria have confirmed that they will provide troops to the Polish sector.

When the United States asked Poland to run the peacekeeping mission in the south-central region of Iraq, the government in Warsaw originally hoped that the chore of the force would come from an existing Polish/German/Danish unit.

But Germany, which firmly opposed the war from the start, has repeatedly made clear that it will not send its soldiers.

Salzburg summit of central and eastern European leaders
Agreement was reached at the Salzburg summit
Poland was then faced by the problem of assembling a force from scratch, and invited offers from both Nato and non-Nato countries.

The task has been made easier by a Nato decision to help set up a command centre and by the UN Security Council resolution on Thursday, which will give the peacekeepers some international legitimacy.

Representatives from the Warsaw meeting will now report to their own governments on what kind of units Poland needs to make up the international force.

Ukraine is believed to be willing to send up to 2,000 troops and a Ukrainian officer would become second in command of the force.

Bulgaria will provide 500 soldiers.

A number of west European countries, including the Netherlands, Denmark and Norway, may put small numbers of highly specialised troops under Polish command.


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