Bulgaria to withdraw its troops from Iraq

Bulgaria's prime minister on Friday announced that his government is beginning preparations for the withdrawal of the country's 400 troops from Iraq.

Sergei Stanishev said that later this month consultations with the coalition partners will be launched on the details of Bulgaria's military pullout and its future participation in humanitarian activities, according to the AP.

"Our upcoming withdrawal does not mean that we are stepping back from our engagements in the broad anti-terror coalition," Stanishev said in parliament.

"We will remain a responsible and predictable partner of the multinational forces and of the Iraqi government," he added.

Stanishev said that Bulgaria will continue to be part of the efforts of the international community to stabilize Iraq, but "in a different way." He said that Bulgarian military instructors could participate in training missions for Iraqi soldiers and police officers.

In May, Bulgaria's parliament voted to cut the number of troops in Iraq from 460 to 400 and to continue their mission through the end of 2005.

Bulgaria has lost 13 soldiers in Iraq since it launched its military mission there in August 2003. Seven died in insurgent attacks, one was killed by U.S. troops in a friendly fire incident and five have died in vehicle accidents.

Six Bulgarian civilians have also been killed by Iraqi insurgents

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