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Parliament approves Slovak troops in Iraq

THE CONTINUED presence of international forces in Iraq is for the sake of the Iraqi people, and Slovak soldiers are pursuing humanitarian goals there, reads a government report considered by parliament October 19.

"I am confident that the complete or partial pull-out of international forces from Iraq would be wrong. Despite intricacies and violence on the ground, members of the international coalition are determined to continue their mission, and not yield to the blackmail of terrorist kidnappers," Defence Minister Juraj Liška told parliament.

The interim Iraqi government has asked Slovakia to train de-mining specialists. The training is set for December 5-23 at a military base in Nitra, Liška said.

Drafted by the Defence and Foreign Affairs Ministries, the report says that the withdrawal of Slovak troops from Operation Iraqi Freedom would cost tens of millions of crowns. Slovak forces are operating in the area under the mandate of the UN Security Council and the Slovak parliament, according to the report.

Slovakia has 102 soldiers in Iraq, most of whom are there for de-mining work. Three soldiers died in a mortar attack in early June, wrote news wire TASR.

Some opposition lawmakers oppose the Slovak mission in Iraq. Communist Party (KSS) chairman and MP, Jozef Ševc, has called for the return of troops to Slovakia by the end of this year because, as he said in a parliamentary debate, "They have no business being in Iraq and should return home, as other armies of coalition countries are doing."

Smer MP D÷usan Čaplovič accused Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda of sticking by his mistakes by keeping Slovak troops in Iraq.

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