Ukrainian parliament for Iraq pullout

The Ukrainian parliament has called on outgoing President Leonid Kuchma to withdraw the nation's 1600 peacekeepers from Iraq, where they make up the fourth-largest contingent in the US-led force.

    Yanukovich (C) supports troop withdrawal from Iraq

    "Due to the sharp deterioration of the situation in Iraq, the parliament addresses the president with the proposal on withdrawal of troops from Iraq," the resolution on Friday said.

      

    The chamber voted 257-0 in support of the proposal. Forty deputies who were present did not take part in the vote.

     

    Andriy Lysenko, head of the defence ministry press service, said the military "answers fully to the president of Ukraine and in the event he signs the document, the armed forces will execute his order".

      

    "So far, we do not have such an order," Lysenko said.

     

    Non-binding

      

    The decision was non-binding.

     

    Nine Ukrainian soldiers have died
    in Iraq

    "The president can simply ignore it," said Oleksandr Lytvynenko of the Kiev-based Razumkov thinktank.

     

    Ukraine's dispatch of troops to boost the US-led contingent in Iraq had improved Kiev's relations with the United States. Ties went sour after reports that Kuchma's administration had sold radar systems to Saddam Hussein before he was removed from power.

      

    Most Ukrainians want the troops brought home, and the deployment has been

    a rare topic of agreement between the two rivals vying for the presidency. Both opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich s

    upport a pullout.

     

    Mandate

      

    Kuchma ordered the troops to Iraq, and their mandate there is open-ended.

    Friday's vote was another indication that his hold on parliament is slipping

    as he reaches the end of his term. The legislature had turned down a

    proposal on withdrawal earlier in the year.

      

    "The president can simply ignore it"

    Oleksandr Lytvynenko,
    Razumkov thinktank, Kiev

    Defence Minister Oleksandr Kuzmuk and other top defence officials had

    announced earlier that Ukraine would gradually pull out its troops from Iraq,

    but not without coordinating the move with other forces in the country.

      

    In October, Kuzmuk said Ukraine and the other US partners in Iraq must first

    secure the January elections.

      

    Top Iraqi interim government officials have repeatedly urged Kuchma not to withdraw Ukrainian troops and said they would like Ukrainian troops to stay in Iraq through the elections.

      

    Ukraine cut the size of the contingent in Iraq by about 200 troops in October.

      

    Nine Ukrainian soldiers have died in Iraq, including three in combat, and more than 20 have been wounded.

    SOURCE: Aljazeera + Agencies


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