WARSAW -- Poland's government decided on Tuesday to withdraw its troops from Iraq at the end of 2005, making official an earlier proposal, Defense Minister Jerzy Szmajdzinski said.
"At the time of the expiry of the Security Council's mandate -- meaning at the end of 2005 -- the operations of the Polish stabilization mission should be finished," Szmajdzinski told a news conference after a cabinet meeting.
Poland, a close ally of Washington in Europe and one of the few supporters of its war to topple Saddam Hussein in 2003, has about 1,700 soldiers in south-central Iraq, where it runs a multi-national stabilization force.
Szmajdzinski said Prime Minister Marek Belka's government, which opinion polls show losing power in elections due by October, would not commit Polish troops to any other missions.
"Belka's government will surely not make any new military commitments. We are carrying out an exit strategy from Iraq."
Despite popular opposition at home to Poland's military engagement in Iraq, where 17 Polish soldiers have been killed, all mainstream parties have remained committed to finishing the stabilization mission in the Gulf state.
© Reuters 2005