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Ukraine to Withdraw Troops From Iraq

Associated Press | March 22, 2005
By NATASHA LISOVA

KIEV, Ukraine - President Viktor Yushchenko has signed the order to withdraw Ukraine's troops from Iraq, cementing a pledge by the new leadership to bring back its 1,650-strong force, the head of the country's security council said Tuesday.

The end date for the pullout will be "fixed after consultations with the other coalition members," and the entire Ukrainian contingent is likely to leave Iraq in November or December, Petro Poroshenko said.

Earlier this month Yushchenko and top defense officials ordered Ukraine's soldiers to leave by year's end, and the pullout began last week. The ex-Soviet republic provided the sixth-largest contingent in the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq.

Eighteen Ukrainian soldiers have been killed in Iraq and more than two dozen have been wounded, fueling public dismay about the unpopular deployment.

More than 130 soldiers returned home last week, and Ukraine plans to withdraw an additional 550 soldiers from Iraq by May 15, the Defense Ministry has said.

The troop pullout was one of the new president's campaign promises.

Ukraine strongly opposed the U.S.-led war but later agreed to send a large contingent to serve under Polish command in central and southern Iraq.

The deployment was widely seen as an effort by former President Leonid Kuchma to repair relations with Washington, frayed by allegations that he approved the sale of radar systems to Saddam Hussein ( news -web sites )'s regime in violation of U.N. sanctions.

Ukraine's participation in the U.S.-led coalition is deeply unpopular at home, but Yushchenko has said Ukraine should keep a presence in Iraq and take part in development and reconstruction efforts there.

Last year, Ukrainian companies were awarded contracts to supply the Iraqi military and development companies with weapons, equipment and vehicles.

Poroshenko said that a Ukrainian delegation of diplomats and defense officials will visit Iraq next week.

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