Hungary Joins Others in Pulling Troops From Iraq
By JUDY DEMPSEY,
International Herald Tribune
Published: November 4, 2004
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International Herald Tribune
BERLIN, Nov. 3 - Hungary announced Wednesday that it would withdraw its
300 troops from Iraq, becoming the latest country in United States-led
coalition to bow to public pressure and prepare to bring its soldiers
Speaking at a ceremony for the end of military conscription, the newly
appointed prime minister, Ferenc Gyurcsany, said Hungary was obliged to
stay until the Iraqi elections scheduled for January, but would withdraw
the troops by March.
"To stay longer is an impossibility," said Mr. Gyurcsany (pronounced
The United States had persuaded 32 countries to provide 22,000 soldiers
as part of the multinational force established to stabilize postwar
Iraq. But over the last few months, a number of countries have
withdrawn, some citing the cost but others concerned about security, and
many governments face increasing public opposition to the war.
Spain's Socialist government withdrew its 1,300 troops after it swept
into power last March, reversing the commitment of the prior
center-right government of Prime Minister José María Aznar. The
Dominican Republic withdrew 302 soldiers, Nicaragua 115 and Honduras
370. The Philippines withdrew its 51 in July, a month early, after
insurgents took hostage a Filipino truck driver working for a Saudi
company. Norway withdrew 155 military engineers, keeping only 15 staff
members to help NATO train and equip the Iraqi security forces.
Two large contributors to the international force - Britain, with 12,000
troops, and Italy, with more than 3,100 - have insisted they will not
withdraw. But Poland, the fourth-largest contributor, with 2,400 troops,
says it intends to withdraw by the end of next year, and the
Netherlands, with 1,400 troops, said this week that the latest rotation
of troops would be its last contribution to Iraq.
New Zealand is withdrawing its 60 engineers and Thailand said it wanted
to bring home its 450 troops. Singapore has reduced its contingent to
33, from 191; Moldova has trimmed its force to 12, from 42. On Wednesday
Bulgaria's Defense Ministry said it would reduce its 483 troops to 430
next month, Reuters reported.
Iraq's interim government had asked Hungary to keep its troops in the
country for another year. But Peter Matyuc, a spokesman for the Defense
Ministry, said in a statement that the government would ask Parliament
on Monday to extend the troops' mandate by only three months.
"By March 31, 2005, we will bring our troops back from Iraq," Mr.
Gyurcsany said. "From then on, the existence of a stable democratic and
safe Iraq has to be created by different means, above all political
In a letter signed in January 2003, Hungary joined ranks with Poland,
the Czech Republic, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Denmark and Britain in
endorsing the Bush administration's willingness to use force to disarm
Iraq, a move that deepened Europe's divisions over Iraq. A ninth
country, Slovakia, signed the letter later. That first letter was
followed by another signed by 10 more countries.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld added to the divisions by
describing those governments that opposed military intervention -
notably France and Germany - as Old Europe and those who supported
Washington as New Europe.