Romanian troops go to Iraq

Some 400 Romanian troops will replace Romanian peacekeepers who is under British command in Iraq, the Defense Ministry said Wednesday.

Romania has about 600 troops in Iraq, most of them stationed with British troops in the south. Their presence in Iraq has become a contentious issue in domestic politics, with Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu calling for their withdrawal. But President Traian Basescu, who is commander in chief, has decided they should stay.

Defense Minister Teodor Melescanu will be among the officials who see off the 32nd Infantry Battalion Mircea from the western city of Timisoara on Thursday, a statement said. It is the unit's first mission to Iraq.

The peacekeepers will operate in the southern province of Dhi Qar. They will provide security services and stability in the area and guard multinational operations, both military and civilian, the release said.