Poland's government draws heavy criticism to keep troops in Iraq

Politicians from the left and right on Wednesday assailed new Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz's decision to extend Poland's military mission in Iraq. Marcinkiewicz announced on Tuesday that his conservative minority government had asked President Lech Kaczynski to keep Polish troops in Iraq for another year, reversing plans by the previous government to bring them home in January.

Under the plan, Polish forces are to be reduced from nearly 1,500 to 900 in March. But opposition leaders from across the political spectrum condemned the decision.

"This decision overstretches Poles' patience," former Defense Minister Jerzy Szmajdzinski was quoted as saying in the Super Express daily, noting that popular support for the mission has been falling steadily.

Szmajdzinski served in the previous left-wing government, which decided in 2003 to send Polish forces to Iraq. Another former defense minister, Bronislaw Komorowski of the center-right Civic Platform, said Poland had fulfilled its obligations in Iraq "110 percent." "I find no justification for our further presence," he said in Super Express. On Tuesday, Roman Giertych, the leader of the nationalist League of Polish Families, called for Poland's withdrawal and said the extension would be "a great strategic mistake."

The left-leaning daily Trybuna said in an editorial that Marcinkiewicz's Cabinet was "driven by servility toward the USA," and warned that the decision increases threats to Poland and weakens its position in the European Union, reports the AP. I.L.

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