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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 March, 2005, 17:09 GMT
Dutch and Ukrainians leave Iraq
A Dutch soldier returns to Eindhoven airport after serving in Iraq
Dutch soldiers are all due home by mid-April
Two members of the US-led coalition in Iraq have begun their phased withdrawals from the country.

About 150 Dutch troops arrived back in their country on Monday, while a similar number of Ukrainians were expected home on Tuesday.

However, the withdrawals coincided with a vote in the Italian parliament, expected to endorse the country's continued involvement in Iraq.

Italy has about 3,000 troops deployed in southern Iraq.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has been a staunch supporter of the mission.

His conservatives have a comfortable majority in the lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, and are expected to approve funding for the continued mission.

The Senate has already voted to extend the mission.

'Made a difference'

The Dutch troops arrived in Eindhoven on Monday - the first element of their contingent to arrive home after handing Iraq's southern Muthanna province over to British forces last week.

Main international troops in Iraq
US: 150,000
UK: 8,000
South Korea: 3,600
Italy: 3,085
Poland: 1,700
Ukraine: 1,600
Georgia: 898
Romania: 730
Japan: 550
Denmark: 496
Bulgaria: 450
Australia: 400
Source: Global Security

"You have made the difference for the Iraqi population - the difference between injustice and justice, between war and peace and between the past and the future," Defence Minister Henk Kamp told them.

There are still about 800 Dutch soldiers in Iraq. They are expected to leave over the next month.

Two Dutch soldiers have died over the course of their involvement in Iraq.

Ukraine, which has lost 17 servicemen, is due to complete its withdrawal by 15 October.

The first of its 1,600 returning troops - who have been serving in the Polish command area south-east of Baghdad - were due to land in the city of Nikolayev on Tuesday.


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