IN SHORT

Slovak soldiers in Iraq replaced by late August

The replacement of Slovak soldiers in Iraq will take place between the end of August and the beginning of September at the earliest.

Slovak soldiers are still preparing and training for deployment in Iraq even though the government has suggested that it plans to end the Slovak mission in the Gulf. Meanwhile regular rotations (after six months) of soldiers in Iraq have not been stopped. No directive has been issued to stop training soldiers for Iraq, Slovak army spokesman Milan Vanga told the news wire TASR.

However, the new government plans to review the Slovak contribution to the Iraqi Freedom operation and other operations abroad. But Slovakia must first negotiate all moves related to the withdrawal of its soldiers from Iraq not only with the Iraqi government but also with its allies in order to remain a reliable partner, according to Defence Minister František Kašický.

Kašický has already ordered the preparation of a possible schedule for the withdrawal of Slovak soldiers from Iraq. The plans must include possible future help for the Iraqi people.

Slovakia currently has 109 troops in Iraq, most of whom are engaged in clearing landmines. The unit in Iraq was deployed in 2003 as part of the U.S.-led coalition.

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