Outgoing Prime Minister Leszek Miller on Wednesday said Poland was considering options for withdrawing its troops from Iraq, but added that any possible pullout would not be sudden and will be agreed with Washington.

   

Miller said his likely successor as prime minister, Marek Belka, would map out a strategy for Polish troops in his first policy speech expected in early May.

   

"We will not make any rash gestures," he said. "A final decision about the pullout date will be agreed and well thought over." 

   

He told reporters that Poland would not follow Spain's example to pull its troop from Iraq quickly, because this could destablise the situation in the country.

 

Problem

   

"The problem exists. We cannot turn a blind eye to the fact that Spain and others are leaving Iraq," Miller said. "I cannot say when we will leave, but I'm sure the new prime minister will say something more precise."

   

A government official, who asked not to be named however said that Poland was ready to keep its troops in Iraq until the end of 2004 but would like to cut numbers from the current 2500.

 

"... We cannot turn a blind eye to the fact that Spain and others are leaving Iraq"

Leszek Miller,
prime minister, Poland

Poland's soldiers are responsible for a swathe of central and southern Iraq, leading a multinational force of which the Spanish contingent is currently part.

 

Earlier, the Dominican Republic announced plans to withdraw its troops.

 

Unnecessary risks

 

The country's secretary of the armed forces, Lt General Jose Miguel Soto Jimenez on Tuesday said President Hipolito Mejia had decided to withdraw "as soon as possible" the 300 soldiers stationed in Iraq as part of the US-led occupation forces.

 

"The president has decided on the withdrawal of our troops in Iraq as he believes there is no need to run unnecessary risks," Soto Jimenez said.

 

On Monday, in a blow to US President George Bush and his occupation partners in Iraq, Honduras followed Spain in announcing its troop pullout from the country.

 

President Ricardo Maduro, a close ally of the US, said he had already told "coalition countries" that Honduras' 370 soldiers in Iraq would soon quit the country.

 

Spain was the first to trigger the spate of withdrawals following the coming to power in that country of a socialist government opposed to the US invasion of Iraq.