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Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 July, 2005, 12:11 GMT 13:11 UK
Poland and Iraq discuss troop cut
By Adam Easton
BBC News, Warsaw

Polish Prime Minister Marek Belka
Polish PM Marek Belka has been a strong supporter of the coalition
Polish Prime Minister Marek Belka has arrived in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, for talks with his counterpart, Ibrahim Jaafari, on Polish troop levels.

The pair are to discuss the scheduled withdrawal of 1,500 of the soldiers from Iraq early next year.

The Polish government has been a staunch supporter of the US-led coalition in Iraq.

However, the policy is now unpopular with the public and it no longer has the funds or soldiers to sustain it.

When the US invited Polish troops to command a huge multi-national force in southern Iraq two years ago, the Polish government saw it as a great opportunity to improve its armed forces and Poland's international standing.

Even though much of the public originally supported the idea of sending troops to Iraq opinions have now changed.

Domestic issues

Many of the expected economic and political benefits have not materialised. And now the overwhelming majority of Poles want the soldiers to come home.

Most Poles are still probably more concerned about domestic issues like high unemployment and corruption than Iraq.

But the Madrid and London bombings served as an awful reminder that Polish cities could also be targets - although the government says it has no reports that suggest a heightened threat.

But it is continuing with its plans to withdraw its remaining troops after a United Nations mandate expires at the end of the year.

A small number of soldiers will stay to continue training the Iraqi military. But after five tours of duty, Poland simply has neither the money nor the available troops to continue its presence.

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