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Coalition

2004.09.21
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VILNIUS, Sep 21, BNS - Lithuanian Defence Minister Linas Linkevičius says that the withdrawal of coalition forces from Iraq is not under discussion yet although "all" would like to see this happen as soon as possible.

"We all want to be able to pull out our forces from there as soon as possible," Linkevičius told the Ziniu Radijas radio on Tuesday morning but noted that the withdrawal schedule was not discussed yet. He said that training of Iraqi forces was planned.

"Our goal is to have elections in Iraq in January and as many as possible local troops to replace coalition forces," said the Minister.

Linkevičius forecasted that some of the coalition"s combat units could be replaced by training centres of Iraqi armed forces.

Some 120 Lithuanian troops now serve in Iraq including 50 in the Basra province and another part in the Polish-controlled sector in the city of al-Hillah close to Baghdad. Several more officers work in headquarters of various levels.

During the weekend, the Minister attended an informal meeting of his European Union colleagues in the Netherlands, which, among other matters, addressed EU's quick-reaction combat groups.

The minister informed his EU counterparts about Lithuania's plans to participate in the forces according to its means.

"We do not plan to allocate additional resources. We will allocate the same package of forces and will use it depending on the situation and where our political presence is needed," Linkevicius said in an interview.

In his words, the Lithuanian logistical unit will take part in the NATO's quick-reaction unit starting next January.

"We are the first Balt to have a realistic start. We have agreed with the Netherlands as partners," he added.

The Minister said that the Lithuanian unit would be "on stand-by" for six months and will go to a crisis region in case of need.

Lithuania plans to prepare a logistical unit for NATO's quick-reaction force until 2005 and a special operations group until the end of 2008.

 

 

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