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Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 April, 2005, 10:54 GMT 11:54 UK
Poland confirms Iraq withdrawal
Polish troops in Karbala, Iraq
Poland commands a multinational force of about 4,700
Poland has said it will pull its troops out of Iraq when the UN mandate for the stabilisation mission expires at the end of this year.

Poland has 1,700 soldiers in Iraq, and leads a multinational security force south of Baghdad.

Polish Defence Minister Jerzy Szmajdzinski said the troops' mission would end "at the time of the expiry of the Security Council's mandate".

Several other US allies have also set dates for their troops to pull out.

Europeans pull out

Italy, with just over 3,000 troops in Iraq, has said it wants to pull its contingent out as soon as possible.

The Netherlands (about 800 troops) and Ukraine (1,600 troops) have begun phased withdrawals of their contingents.

The last Ukrainian troops are due to leave by mid-October.

Bulgaria (about 500 troops) also wants to pull its troops out this year.

Poland's left-leaning government is trailing in the opinion polls, with parliamentary elections due by October, and the Iraq mission is unpopular, correspondents say.

Mr Szmajdzinski said Prime Minister Marek Belka's government would "surely not make any new military commitments" on Iraq. "We are carrying out an exit strategy."

He said it would take "a few weeks" for all the troops and equipment to return to Poland after the mandate expired.

The pull-out decision was based on financial considerations as well as an assessment of the security situation, Mr Szmajdzinski added.

Last month Poland's President Aleksander Kwasniewski said Polish troops were likely to be withdrawn from Iraq by the end of the year.

"We are confident that 2005 will be a decisive year, and will allow either a withdrawal or a significant reduction of the Polish presence," he said.


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