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Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma (file photo) Kyiv, 10 January 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Outgoing Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma today ordered his defense and foreign ministers to draw up plans to withdraw Ukraine's troops from Iraq in the first half of 2005.

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksandr Kuzmuk made the announcement at a news conference in Kyiv. He said the first withdrawal of about 1,600 troops could be as early as March.

Seven Ukrainian soldiers were killed and seven injured yesterday while defusing a bomb in the central Wasit region.

Yesterday, the winner of Ukraine's presidential election, Viktor Yushchenko, said withdrawing Ukraine's troops from Iraq will be a priority for him once he takes office.

Earlier, British Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon said Britain will send an extra 400 troops to Iraq ahead of the 30 January elections.

(Interfax-Ukraine/AFP/AP)
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