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Poland may pull troops out of Iraq

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(CNN) -- Poland may reduce its commitment of forces to the war in Iraq by 40 percent by January 2005 and have all its troops out by the end of that year, Polish officials said Monday.

Polish President Aleksander Kwasnieswski said a withdrawal is in the discussion stage but could not be finalized until after Iraqi elections scheduled for January.

"I hope the election will happen. Then the election will give (Iraq) a new government with a strong mandate, and then we will speak with the new Iraqi government about the presence of international forces -- including Polish forces -- in the year 2005," said Kwasnieswski, who was in Paris for a meeting with French President Jacques Chirac.

"That's the reason why we are speaking with the Iraqis, with our coalition partners, with the United States about reduction (in) the first of January 2005, and maybe to finish our mission to the end of 2005, but both elements are question marks because the discussions are ongoing," he said.

A Defense Ministry spokesman said Defense Minister Jerzy Szmajdzinski told the Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza that Poland planned a 40 percent reduction in January, followed by complete withdrawal by the end of the year.

Currently, Poland has 2,500 troops committed to Operation Iraqi Freedom, but would reduce that number to 1,500 January 2005, the spokesman said, and the remaining troops would leave Iraq by December 2005.

Poland heads multi-national forces in the central south area of Iraq, where it commands about 1,700 troops from Ukraine and smaller numbers from Bulgaria, Lithuania and El Salvador.

-- CNN's Masha Medvedeva contributed to this story

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