Seoul will keep troops in Iraq

President Roh Moo-hyun has said South Korean troops in Iraq will remain until goals set by the US and its allies operating in the country are accomplished.

    President Roh: I don't think the troop mission will be very long

    In a New Year news conference at his presidential Blue House compound on Thursday, Roh said: "The time of their deployment is until the goals of the United States and the countries participating are largely met."

    But he added: "I don't think the troop mission will be very long."

    South Korea has 3600 troops in Iraq - the third largest
    contin-gent after the US and Britain - deployed in the
    Kurdish controlled town of Arbil purportedly for relief and rehabilitation work.

    Their mission, originally to last until the end of 2004, was late last year extended until the end of 2005. 

    "The purpose of the deployment is for peace and establishing order in Iraq and also for cooperation with the United States," the South Korean president, who visited his troops in Arbil in December, said.

    He said his government was still checking a report that two South Koreans had been captured by a group in Iraq.

    "We have yet to verify it. The government continues checking on that," Roh said.

    Deadline set

    A message posted last week on an Arabic website signed by an organisation describing itself as al-Jihad group said two
    Koreans would receive "Allah's judgment" unless Seoul withdrew its troops from Iraq within 72 hours.

    Roh visited South Korean troops
    stationed in Arbil in December

    The group said it would post the photos of the captives "in
    several hours" but had yet to do so.

    There was no way to verify the message, and officials in Seoul said they were uncertain as to the authenticity of the group. 

    The foreign ministry reaffirmed on Thursday that all South Koreans known to be in Iraq had been accounted for and were safe. 

    "However, we can't be 100% certain there are not others
    there who we do not know about," a foreign ministry official said.

    Groups have demanded Seoul withdraw its troops from Iraq. A group captured and beheaded a South Korean translator in June after Seoul rejected a demand that it cancel its plan to send troops to the country.

    SOURCE: Agencies


    YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

    Interactive: How does your country vote at the UN?

    Interactive: How does your country vote at the UN?

    Explore how your country voted on global issues since 1946, as the world gears up for the 74th UN General Assembly.

    'We were forced out by the government soldiers'

    'We were forced out by the government soldiers'

    We dialled more than 35,000 random phone numbers to paint an accurate picture of displacement across South Sudan.

    Interactive: Plundering Cambodia's forests

    Interactive: Plundering Cambodia's forests

    Meet the man on a mission to take down Cambodia's timber tycoons and expose a rampant illegal cross-border trade.