Skip to comments.Spanish troops to leave Iraq within weeks
Posted on 04/19/2004 1:09:44 PM PDT by kattracks
WARSAW, Poland (AP) Spanish troops will withdraw from Iraq in four to five weeks, a spokesman for the Polish contingent that commands a multinational peacekeeping force in Iraq said Monday.
Polish Gen. Mieczyslaw Bieniek told reporters at the force's Camp Babylon headquarters that troops currently under Spanish command from El Salvador, Honduras and the Dominican Republic would stay put, Poland's PAP news agency reported. But he said it was unclear who would replace the 1,300 Spanish troops.
Later Monday Spanish Defense Minister Jose Bono said Spain's force would leave in fewer than six weeks.
"It would be imprudent to talk of six to eight weeks because it's going to be less," Bono told a news conference after the newly-elected government's first Cabinet meeting.
Bono at first refused to give details beyond assuring that the "troops would return very soon and safely."
Maj. Slawomir Walenczykowski confirmed the report from the force's Camp Babylon headquarters in southern Iraq.
Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero on Sunday ordered the 1,300 Spanish troops to return home as soon as possible. The troops serve in southern Iraq and are part of a multinational force led by Poland.
Poland oversees the 23-nation force of 9,500 troops in south-central Iraq. The Polish Defense Ministry said in a statement Monday that commanders were now working on transferring "tasks from the Spaniards while maintaining the operational capability of the division and ensuring the safety of the soldiers."
Zapatero had initially pledged to remove the troops if the United Nations had not taken political and military control of the situation in Iraq by June 30. In making his announcement to remove them earlier, Zapatero said there was no sign the situation would have changed sufficiently to satisfy Spain.
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