Poland to end Iraq mission in 2008: defence minister
( AFP ) - Poland will end next year its mission in Iraq, where it currently deploys 900 soldiers, new Polish Defence Minister Bogdan Klich said Saturday.
"I can confirm that in 2008 the Polish military contingent in Iraq will be withdrawn," the minister, who took up his post in the new liberal government of Prime Minister Donald Tusk on Friday, told public radio Jedynma.
He said the details of the withdrawal would be announced next Friday when Tusk outlines his government's policies in parliament.
Warsaw has been one of the closest US allies over Iraq. Polish troops took part in the 2003 invasion, sparking a bitter verbal battle with anti-war European Union members, notably France.
US-Polish ties strengthened after the election in 2005 of the previous Law and Justice party administration.
Last December, President Lech Kaczynski extended the deployment of its 900-strong force until the end of this year, and the conservative government had said it was planning to send a new group of soldiers in 2008.
Tusk's Civic Platform, which won last month's snap general elections, has pledged a swift pull-out of Polish armed forces from Iraq.
Speaking to the daily Gazeta Wyborcza earlier in the month, Tusk said it was important that Washington recognise that his Civic Platform had won power with a pledge to "end the mission in Iraq at least in its current form, in 2008".
Last month, Polish Ambassador Edward Pietrzyk was seriously injured and his driver killed by a roadside bomb in Baghdad. A total of 22 Polish soldiers have been killed in Iraq since 2003.
The current 900-strong Polish continent is stationed in the Diwaniyah region of Iraq, where 2,600 were deployed in 2003.
An opinion poll last June found that 81 percent of Poles were opposed to their soldiers' deployment alongside US troops in Iraq, with only 15 per cent in favour.