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Slovak troops return from Iraq

AFTER serving 1,304 days in Iraq, the Slovak military engineering unit returned home on February 25. A total of 713 soldiers took part in the seven rotations over those three years, and cleared mines in Iraq as part of the Iraqi Freedom operation.

Slovakia lost four soldiers during its participation in the Iraqi coalition.

Following the return of the Slovak Iraq contingent, Prime Minister Robert Fico stressed that in securing their withdrawal he had managed to fulfill one of his pre-election promises.

“My belief that the war in Iraq was wrong has not changed. I believe that in future Slovakia will only participate in foreign missions with a full UN mandate,” said Fico for the Pravda daily.

The Slovak leader reiterated that the Slovak unit in Iraq had not been given much to do.

Fico’s coalition partner, Ján Slota of the radical Slovak National Party (SNS), said earlier that Slovak soldiers were just “fooling around” in Iraq. However, those who participated in the operation, including unit commander Ľubomír Gardlo, unequivocally rejected the allegations.

“We are sorry that some politicians said we had nothing to do. In less than five months we have defused 57 tons of explosives, cleared 70,000 square meters of land of explosives, and trained 18 Iraqi bomb disposal troops,” Gardlo said.

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