Defence Minister plans changes to Slovak unit in Iraq

SLOVAK Defence Minister Juraj Liška is considering several possible changes to the unit of Slovak engineers deployed in Iraq according to SITA news agency. However, no changes are expected at the next troop rotation, planned for the end of January or the beginning of February.

The unit currently numbers around 100 members. Liška is considering reducing the number of army engineers and replacing them with military police. He is also considering sending more instructors to the NATO mission that is training Iraqi security forces.

The minister said it was difficult to say how long the Slovak unit would remain in Iraq, and that Slovakia has not decided whether to withdraw its forces from the strife-torn country. He added that the quicker Iraqi forces are trained, the sooner Slovak soldiers will return home.

January 4 was one of the bloodiest days in Iraq since the December 15 elections, with 53 people killed in various actions by insurgents. Violence in Iraq has been endemic and on the rise since the US-led invasion of the country in 2003, and the Iraqi Interior Ministry reported yesterday that 2,880 terrorist attacks targeting Iraqi security forces and civilians had occured in 2005, killing 7,430 Iraqis.

Slovakia is waiting for a decision by the UN Security Council on extending the mandate of the multinational force in Iraq. However, Slovakia also conditions its presence in Iraq on the consent of the Iraqi government. If both the UN and Iraq approve, Slovak troops will stay, the minister said.

Compiled by Martina Jurinová from press reports
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