Image: File photo of Polish soldier in Iraq
Ali Jasim  /  Reuters file
Iraqi women walk past a Polish soldier at a mobile checkpoint 12 miles north of the southern Iraqi town of Kerbala in this March 1, 2004 file photo.
updated 4/12/2005 6:44:29 AM ET 2005-04-12T10:44:29

Poland's defense minister on Tuesday said the government wants its troops to leave Iraq in the first few weeks of 2006 after the U.N. mandate on the multinational force in Iraq expires.

"It is the government's opinion that together with the end of the U.N. mandate for the stabilization mission, all the activity of the Polish stabilization mission should also end," said Defense Minister Jerzy Szmajdzinski.

Szmajdzinski said that after the resolution expires at the end of the year, it would take "a few weeks" for all the troops and equipment to return to Poland. While Polish officials have indicated their forces would leave after the resolution expires, Szmajdzinski's remarks were the most definite about when that might happen.

Szmajdzinski said his statement reflected the position of the Polish Cabinet and would need to be confirmed by President Aleksander Kwasniewski.

Poland commands a multinational force of about 4,700 troops in three provinces in central Iraq. Poland itself has 1,700 troops in Iraq, a presence that is unpopular at home.

The current left-leaning government's popularity has sunk to single digits in opinion polls ahead of parliamentary elections, which could be held as early as June.

Szmajdzinski said the decision to bring the troops home was based on an assessment of the security situation and on the financial burden on Poland's budget.

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