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Last Updated: Friday, 21 April 2006, 18:20 GMT 19:20 UK
Polish forces 'may stay in Iraq'
Polish troops in Karbala, Iraq
Polish troops in Iraq command a multi-national force
Poland may not pull its troops out of Iraq at the end of the year as planned, its defence minister has said.

Radek Sikorski told the BBC that while he thought it was unlikely Polish forces would stay on, that could change depending on circumstances.

Poland has about 1,500 troops currently serving in Iraq.

The previous government had said it would withdraw them at the start of the year, but the present administration reversed this when it took power.

In an interview with Europe Today, Mr Sikorski said Polish forces had encountered less trouble in Iraq that some other countries' troops.

He attributed this to a greater reluctance to use force and more respect for the country's religious sites.

"We are a religious country. Maybe the Iraqis pick up the fact that we respect their religious sites perhaps more than some others, and we seem to have good relationships with the local people," he said.

Poland is a staunch ally of the US, and is the fifth biggest foreign contingent in Iraq, after the US, Britain, South Korea and Italy.

Polish troops command a multi-national force in south-central Iraq.




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