Published April 20, 2004
SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic – The Dominican Republic (search) will pull its troops out of Iraq early, in the next few weeks, following the lead of Spain (search) and Honduras (search), Gen. Jose Miguel Soto Jimenez said Tuesday.
The announcement came just two days after President Hipolito Mejia pledged to keep the country's 302 troops in Iraq until their one-year committment ended in August.
"The troops in Iraq will be coming back in the next couple weeks," the Dominican Armed Forces general said.
Soto Jimenez said the president changed course based on security concerns for Dominican soldiers after Honduras announced its troops would be pulled back early.
The Dominicans have been serving with the 370 Honduran troops under a Spanish-led brigade policing Iraq's al-Qadisiya and Najaf provinces since August.
On Sunday, Spain said it would pull out its 1,300 soldiers early, prompting Honduras to follow Monday. The two countries' troops were expected home in about six weeks.
The party of Spain's new prime minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez, won March 14 elections three days after subway terrorist bombings in Madrid. Exit polls showed many Spanish voters believed outgoing Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, by backing the U.S.-led war in Iraq, had provoked the bombings, Spain's worst terror attack.
Many Dominicans also have criticized Mejia's support of the war, particularly over the past two weeks: Dominican troops have been attacked more than a dozen times, though none have been reported injured.
Opposition party candidates have derided Mejia's participation in Iraq ahead of May 16 elections. The president is seeking re-election.