Polish troops to stay until Iraqi polls

Poland wants to keep its troops in Iraq after 30 June, but only if the Iraqi authorities so wish after the handover of power, Defence Minister Jerzy Szmajdzinski has said.

    Prime Minister Miller (C) said Poland reviewing its Iraq policy

    "Poland's military presence in Iraq after 30 June depends on how the political process goes and the attitude of the provisional Iraqi government, which will decide whether it is interested in the presence of Polish armed forces," Szmajdzinski told reporters on Thursday. 

     

    Szmajdzinski said Poland's military presence in Iraq after 30 June, when an Iraqi government is to take control from a US-led occupation authority, depended on wishes of that government and any instructions from the United Nations.

       

    "Poland's further presence in Iraq after 30 June depends on the political process, needs of the Iraqi government ... and a possible UN resolution," he said.  

     

    Elections 

     

    Poland, if necessary, would keep its 2500 troops in that country until Iraqis hold free general elections, which should be organised by the end of January 2005, Szmajdzinski explained.

       

    "Our mission in Iraq, with same number of troops has ... sense in forthcoming months," Szmajdzinski said. "The situation will be different when Iraq holds general elections. From this moment Polish forces could be significantly reduced."

     

    "From our point of view, to guarantee security and the reconstruction of Iraq, the presence of stabilisation forces is useful ... "

    Jerzy Szmajdzinski,
    defence minister

    "From our point of view, to guarantee security and the reconstruction of Iraq, the presence of stabilisation forces is useful and it would be unreasonable to waste what we have accomplished," he said.

     

    Prime Minister Leszek Miller said on Wednesday Poland was reviewing its engagement in Iraq, although it would not pull its troops out suddenly or without agreement with the United States.

      

    Poland, which contributed about 200 troops to the US-led invasion of Iraq now heads a 9000-strong multinational force patrolling a large swathe of the country. It has 2500 of its own troops in the country.

      

    Outgoing prime minister Leszek Miller, admitted Spain's decision to withdraw its troops from the force had forced Warsaw to consider the future of its own forces in the country.

      

    The announcement had a domino effect, with Honduras and the Dominican Republic then announcing they would follow suit, and withdraw their respective 368 and 302 troops from the Polish-led force.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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