US accepts Polish plans to exit Iraq

The United States had accepted Poland's plans to withdraw most of its 1700 troops from Iraq at the beginning of next year, Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski says.

    Poland is one of Washington's biggest European allies in Iraq

    Poland, one of Washington's biggest European allies in Iraq, runs a multinational stabilisation zone south of Baghdad.

    "The current rotation in Iraq will be the last one. By the end of January, we would like to pull the troops and replace them with smaller groups, which could, for example, help train the Iraqi army," Kwasniewski told public radio.

    Kwasniewski said his country's plan to make the shift ending its mission in January the last one had been accepted by the allies. He said the move was the subject of talks between Defence Minister Jerzy Szmajdzinski and US Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld on 19 July.
     
    Kwasniewski said he wanted to leave setting an exact withdrawal schedule for the next government and president, to be picked in elections due in September and October. 
     
    The centre-right opposition, tipped to win parliamentary elections, has supported Poland's presence in Iraq and accused the ruling leftists of pledging to withdraw only to drum up its support ratings ahead of the polls.

    Australian PM visit

    Meanwhile, Australian Prime Minister John Howard arrived in Baghdad on Monday for a surprise visit and talks with the new government.

    John Howard (R) recently met
    Tony Blair in London

    Howard was meeting Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, the government press office said. He is also expected to meet some of the 750 Australian soldiers in Iraq.

    About half the Australian force is in southern Iraq helping train Iraqi security forces and protecting Japanese military engineers working on reconstruction projects.

    Howard, who had been visiting Britain, has been among the strongest supporters of the US-led operation in Iraq.

    Australian soldiers fought in the US-led invasion launched in March 2003.

    The Australian leader recently met US President George Bush in Washington and British Prime Minister Tony Blair in London.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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