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Hungary may pull several hundred soldiers out of Iraq within weeks - and months ahead of schedule - the government in Budapest announced yesterday as several US allies in eastern and central Europe mulled over their options in Iraq.
In one of his first acts as Hungary's prime minister, Ferenc Gyurcsany, a millionaire leftwinger, said on Wednesday that he would withdraw the country's 300 soldiers from Iraq by March. But yesterday he told a press conference in Budapest that the troops could be home by the end of the year unless the opposition, fiercely opposed to the deployment, agreed to the extension.
The Czech Republic yesterday agreed to keep 100 police officers helping to train an Iraqi police force in Iraq until February. But they are then expected to be brought home. Bulgaria, too, announced a 1% cut in its contribution to the coalition forces in Iraq.
The most important US regional ally, Poland, with almost 2,500 troops in Iraq and in command of a sector of the country, is to start scaling back its presence from January, and hopes to have fully withdrawn its forces by the end of next year.
But the Netherlands, like Poland a strongly Atlanticist EU member, is also planning to pull its force of 1,400 out.