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Ukrainian Parliament Wants Force Out of Iraq

Associated Press
Wednesday, January 12, 2005; Page A16

KIEV, Ukraine, Jan. 11 -- The Ukrainian parliament called Tuesday for immediate withdrawal of the nation's 1,650 troops in Iraq. The vote was nonbinding but reflected growing national dismay over the mission.

The call came two days after eight Ukrainian soldiers were killed in an explosion at an ammunition dump. The blast was reported as an accident, but a top commander later raised suspicions that it could have been an insurgent attack.

On Monday, the outgoing president, Leonid Kuchma, ordered Ukraine's foreign and defense ministries to develop a plan for withdrawing troops from Iraq within the first half of the year. But the parliament, in a 308-to-0 vote, called on Kuchma to accelerate the process by issuing a decree on withdrawal.

There was no immediate response from Kuchma. Valeriy Chauly, an analyst with the Kiev-based Razumkov Center for Economic and Political Studies, said he expected the final decision on a pullout would come after a new president takes office.

Opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko, who on Monday was declared the winner of the presidential election, also supports withdrawal. It was not clear when Yushchenko might take office.

In Washington, the State Department spokesman, Richard A. Boucher, said Ukraine had informed U.S. officials that changes in its contingent would be made in full consultation with the Iraqi government and the multinational forces.

The cash-strapped Ukrainian military had previously announced that it was preparing for a phased withdrawal from Iraq by the end of 2005 because of logistical and financial problems.

Ukraine strongly opposed the U.S.-led war in Iraq but later agreed to send troops in an apparent effort to patch up relations frayed by allegations that Kuchma had approved the sale of radar systems and other military equipment to Saddam Hussein's government in contravention of U.N. sanctions.

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