Global Policy Forum

Bulgaria Begins

December 16, 2005

Bulgaria has begun withdrawing its 334-strong light infantry battalion from Iraq following the war-torn country's parliamentary elections this week, Bulgaria's Defence Ministry said on Friday.

Bulgaria's parliament approved the move in May due to strong public opposition to the war. The withdrawal also coincides with a similar pullout by Ukraine, one of the largest contributors to the U.S.-led operations in Iraq.

"Today we are starting to prepare to withdraw our troops," said Defence Ministry spokesman Vladislav Prelezov. "All of the troops will be back in Bulgaria by Dec. 31." He refused to elaborate on the exact plans for the pullout, saying it could compromise the troops' safety.

A staunch supporter of the war, Bulgaria sent troops to Iraq in 2003. But it has since lost 13 soldiers and six civilians there and some two-thirds of its 7.8 million people disagree with keeping soldiers there any longer.

The ruling Socialists had promised to withdraw the troops immediately after winning June elections. But they later toned down plans in favour of sticking to the year-end target after Iraq's interim government asked for Bulgaria's support in Thursday's parliamentary polls.

The NATO newcomer is considering ways to continue to contribute to the U.S.-led operations in a non-military manner, including possibly sending around 120 troops to guard a camp for Iranian refugees in Ashraf, 70 km (44 miles) north of Baghdad.

Ukraine is also concluding the withdrawal of what was originally a 1,600-strong force in Iraq, and its defence minister has promised the troops they will celebrate the New Year at home.

More Information on Iraq
More Information on the State of the Coalition
More Information on Withdrawal?


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