[QODLink]
Archive
Poland mulls Iraq troop withdrawal

Poland's leaders have floated the idea of withdrawing troops f

Last Modified: 04 Oct 2004 22:26 GMT
The 2500 Polish troops run a multinational division in Iraq

Poland's leaders have floated the idea of withdrawing troops from Iraq by the end of next year, giving the first timetable for a planned pullout by the staunch Washington ally.

Warsaw's defence minister on Monday said most troops should leave Iraq by the end of 2005, the first mention of a specific date.

 

President Aleksander Kwasniewski also spoke of such a timeframe for withdrawal, but said no exact date had been set yet.

   

Poland has 2500 soldiers in south-central Iraq and runs a multinational division of 8000 troops there. It has said it planned to significantly scale down its military presence in Iraq after general elections scheduled for January 2005.    

 

Seventeen Poles have died during the 13-month deployment and opinion polls show nearly three-quarters of the public oppose the presence of Polish troops in Iraq.

 

This has been putting pressure on Prime Minister Marek Belka to present a pull-out plan.

 

UN resolution

 

Kwasniewski said no exact date
had been set for withdrawal

Defence Minister Jerzy Szmajdzinski told the Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper that the troop withdrawal should coincide with the  late 2005 expiry of a UN Security Council resolution that endorsed Iraq's current interim government.

   

A handful of Polish officers and observers could stay longer as part of any continued stabilisation mission, he added.

    

President Kwasniewski said it might be possible to "maybe finish our mission at the end of 2005" but discussions on that continued.

 

"We have to behave in a responsible fashion," he said.

 

No authorisation

   

Belka said he had not authorised Szmajdzinski to announce a timetable, which departs from Warsaw's long-standing position that troops would remain in Iraq "as long as it takes" to complete their mission.

 

Before becoming prime minister in May, Belka worked for nine months at the former US occupation administration in Iraq.

 

He has argued that Poland's engagement there has paid dividends by helping the EU newcomer quickly gain a respected voice on European defence and foreign policy issues.

 

Responsibilities

   

Foreign Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz said it was too early to give a date or timetable for any withdrawal. "We can't forget our responsibilities, not only to the Iraqi people, that's the most important, but also to our allies," he said.

   

Polish centre-right opposition
backed involvement in Iraq

Szmajdzinski's statement followed demands from the junior partner in the ruling coalition for an initial timetable for the withdrawal of Polish troops from Iraq.

 

Two opposition parties are collecting signatures for a public petition to highlight discontent over the deployment.

   

Belka's minority government faces a parliamentary vote of confidence later in October, which it is expected to win.

 

General elections are due by mid-2005, when the ruling left is expected to lose to the centre-right opposition, which also supported Poland's military involvement in Iraq.

Source:
Reuters
Topics in this article
People
Country
Featured on Al Jazeera
The author argues that in the new economy, it's people, not skills or majors, that have lost value.
Colleagues of detained Al Jazeera journalists press demands for their release, 100 days after their arrest in Egypt.
Mehdi Hasan discusses online freedoms and the potential of the web with Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales.
A tight race seems likely as 814 million voters elect leaders in world's largest democracy next week.
Featured
Since independence, Zimbabwe has faced food shortages, hyperinflation - and several political crises.
After a sit-in protest at Poland's parliament, lawmakers are set to raise government aid to carers of disabled youth.
A vocal minority in Ukraine's east wants to join Russia, and Kiev has so far been unable to put down the separatists.
Iran's government has shifted its take on 'brain drain' but is the change enough to reverse the flow?
Deadly attacks on anti-mining activists in the Philippines part of a global trend, according to new report.
join our mailing list