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Ukraine Says Troops May Stay In Iraq Until Year's End

Ukrainian soldiers may stay longer in Iraq (file photo) Warsaw, 3 March 2005 -- Ukraine's defense minister today said his country might leave some troops in Iraq two months beyond its October deadline for pulling out.

Defense Minister Anatoliy Gritsenko, speaking in Warsaw after a meeting with his Polish counterpart, Jerzy Szmajdzinski, stressed that Ukraine will not leave the coalition, "but it is changing the character of its mission."

Ukraine on 1 March approved the pullout of its 1,650-strong contingent in a phased withdrawal between 15 March and October. Its troops are responsible for security and training new Iraqi forces in the Wasit Province, which borders Iran.

Gritsenko today said that a last group of some 900 troops may remain in Iraq until December, but said the issue "is still open for discussion and will be consulted on with other nations."