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. Coalition members warned not to pull out of Iraq too hastily
TALLINN (AFP) Apr 04, 2005
US Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick warned Monday against countries pulling their troops out of US-led military coalition in Iraq too hastily.

"It would be very unfortunate when things are moving in the right direction (in Iraq) if partners withdrew their forces," Zoellick told a press conference in the Estonian capital Tallinn.

"All our countries want to bring their forces home -- we do, too," he said. "But under what circumstances of progress in Iraq?"

Zoellick said the situation in Iraq was improving after elections held at the end of January.

"We are starting to see as the aftermath of the elections a greater coming together of the different communities in Iraq," Zoellick said.

"And that is helping in terms of fighting the insurgency."

Zoellick, who is in Estonia as part of a tour of 14 European countries, said the US deeply appreciated the contribution of Estonian soldiers in Iraq but stressed that "the decision about Estonian troops is up to the people of Estonia."

The outgoing Estonian government, which was dissolved last month when prime minister Juhan Parts resigned, wanted to extend the mission of Estonian troops in Iraq.

The Reform Party, which was in Parts' coalition government and whose leader Andrus Ansip was last week nominated for the premiership by President Arnold Ruutel, supports the extension of the mission.

But the Centre Party, one of the three parties involved in forming the next government with the Reform Party, has submitted a bill to parliament, under which the Estonian troops would be home by the end of June.

The jJunior coalition partner, the People's Union, is divided on the issue.

Estonia, which joined the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization last year, has had an average of 45 soldiers serving with US-led forces in Iraq since June 2003, and has lost two men.

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