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Ukraine's President Puts Iraqi Pullout Atop Agenda

Ukrainian President Yushchenko (file photo) 17 February 2005 -- Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko said today that the withdrawal of Ukrainian troops from Iraq is "task number one" for Ukraine's new defense minister.

Yushchenko made his remarks in Kyiv at a meeting with top Ukrainian military commanders and newly appointed Defense Minister Anatoliy Gritsenko.

"The most important thing is to save lives of military men at any price," he said, adding that it is time for Ukraine to begin diplomatic negotiations on the pullout.

Ukraine strongly opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq but later agreed to send troops there under Polish command.

Ukraine maintains some 1,650 troops in Iraq. Seventeen Ukrainian soldiers have been killed there since hostilities began in early 2003.


[For more on events in Iraq, see RFE/RL's dedicated The New Iraq webpage.]