Poland's government to discuss military mission in Iraq

Poland's new government faced one of its first big tests Tuesday with a decision on whether to extend the country's military mission in Iraq, or bring the troops home as planned in early 2006. The Cabinet of conservative Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz was to meet for a regular weekly session, and was slated to deliberate on whether to ask President Lech Kaczynski to extend the mission.

The president authorizes foreign military missions as the supreme army commander. Kaczynski, who took office last week, could make his decision the same day or wait.

Facing shrinking public support for the mission, the previous left-wing government announced it would be pulling out some 1,500 troops at the start of 2006. However, the new government that took office Nov. 10 has indicated the mission might be extended and said a final decision would be announced this month.

One possibility would be to extend the mission, but for a smaller number of troops. Polish news media have speculated that the mission will be extended. Poland has been a staunch U.S. ally in Iraq. It sent combat troops to the country and, in September 2003, took command of an international force that currently numbers more than 3,500 troops, including the Poles.

However, the deployment is unpopular and some in Poland have complained that they have not seen sufficient rewards, for example, easier access to U.S. visas and more American investment and help in modernizing Poland's armed forces, reports the AP. I.L.

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