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Last Updated: Monday, 22 December, 2003, 17:45 GMT
Polish president makes Iraq visit
Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski at Camp Babylon
The president was shown around Polish headquarters
Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski has flown to Iraq for a surprise Christmas visit to his country's peacekeeping troops.

He arrived at the Polish headquarters, Camp Babylon, in central Iraq.

Mr Kwasniewski was expected to stay in Iraq for about two to three hours, meeting Polish soldiers and bringing them greetings from home.

Poland is in command of a multinational peacekeeping force in the centre of the country, south of Baghdad.

"You have many difficult months behind you - thank you for everything you have done," Mr Kwasniewski told assembled troops in scenes carried on Polish television.

It may be true that even in Poland opinion is divided over our stabilisation mission but all Poles are united in recognising your professionalism and dedication
Aleksander Kwasniewski
Polish President
"I am convinced we will bring stabilisation to Iraq, that an Iraqi government will be formed and will assume the responsibility for ruling the nation, and we will be able to return home fully convinced we have fulfilled our mission."

The president acknowledged the unpopularity of the Polish mission among many citizens, who were also largely opposed to the war.

"It may be true that even in Poland opinion is divided over our stabilisation mission but all Poles are united in recognising your professionalism and dedication," Mr Kwasniewski told the troops.

"I am convinced that the cause you are defending is just, that the cause that Poland is defending is just, and that you will succeed in stabilising Iraq."

Poland has deployed 2,350 of its own troops in Iraq, but is in command of a total of 9,000. One Polish serviceman has died.

Defence Minister Jerzy Szmajdzinski and presidential defence aide Marek Siwiec accompanied the president on the trip.

Polish Prime Minister Leszek Miller visited the troops in Iraq in mid-November to mark Polish national day.



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