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. Polish and Lithuanian soldiers leave for Iraq
WARSAW (AFP) Jan 06, 2005
Some 100 Polish and 56 Lithuanian soldiers left for Iraq on Thursday to take over from other soldiers serving there in the Polish-led multinational force in the country.

The soldiers form part of the fourth contingent Poland has sent to Iraq since late 2003, the Polish army said in a statement in Warsaw.

A strong ally of the US since the start of the Iraq conflict, Poland said in December that it would cut its troops from 2,400 to 1,700 after the Iraqi elections scheduled for January 30.

Some 700 other soldiers based in Poland have been put on reserve to be sent to Iraq if needed.

After the Iraqi elections, the 5,500-strong Polish force will include soldiers from 15 countries.

The countries contributing are Armenia, Bulgaria, Denmark, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Mongolia, the Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Salvador, Slovakia, Ukraine and the United States, Colonel Leszek Laszczak said.

Armenia will contribute to the force for the first time, sending around 50 soldiers.

Hungary withdrew its 300 troops from the Polish-led force at the end of 2004, six months after Spain brought home its own soldiers.

"For the time being we have no information that other countries plan to withdraw their troops," a Polish military official said.

A poll published in December showed that 72 percent of Poles opposed their troops' presence in Iraq.

Poland has lost 13 soldiers and four civilians since the beginning of the conflict.

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