Romania to keep troops in Iraq - defence minister

Publish date: 22-02-2007
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BUCHAREST - Romania will keep all of its troops in Iraq for at least the next few months even as Britain, a key ally in the U.S.-led force, plans withdrawals, Defence Minister Sorin Frunzaverde said on Thursday.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair said on Wednesday that Britain would reduce its troop levels in Iraq by 1,600 over the coming months, but its soldiers would stay in the country into 2008 as long as they were wanted.

"Events (in Iraq) are generating missions for our troops there ... so in the next few months we don't plan to reduce our military presence," Frunzaverde told Reuters in an interview.

Romania's ruling centrists are split over the country's presence in Iraq. President Traian Basescu has said the soldiers will remain there until Bucharest's allies and Baghdad ask for a withdrawal.

However, Prime Minister Calin Tariceanu's Liberal Party has said Romania, which has 605 troops in Iraq, should bring its forces home. The governing coalition party says it has collected about a million signatures from Romanians who back its proposal.

Polls show about 60 percent of the public want withdrawal.

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