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.

US setback

The announced withdrawal – coming in the wake of similar decisions taken by Spain and Honduras - is a major blow to the US-led occupation forces, stretched to the limit by the recent wave of attacks and kidnappings.

But striking a belligerent note, US President George Bush said the US-led forces in Iraq remained strong despite the spate of withdrawals.

"We must continue to rally a coalition of the willing, to stay tough and determined," Bush said.

The Dominican decision was spurred by the announcement by Spain's new Prime Minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero that he was withdrawing his country's 1400 troops from Iraq.


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

Lt General Jose Miguel Soto Jimenez,
Secretary of armed forces, the Dominican Republic

Spanish influence

Spain has been in charge of troops in Iraq from the Spanish-speaking nations of El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.

Soto Jimenez said the agreement with the United States to send troops to Iraq was to help in reconstruction, but the situation had been getting "very worrying."

The Honduran Defence Minister, Federico Breye said the country's troops would leave Iraq within two months.

"We expect the return of the troops to take place in the next six or eight weeks. We have given precise instructions to the leadership of the general staff," Breye said.

Nicaraguan troops went home earlier this year as part of a normal rotation, but a new contingent has not been sent to Iraq because the government says it is short of cash.