SEOUL, South Korea – The South Korean government plans to withdraw all its troops from Iraq by the end of 2007, the ruling party said Thursday.
The move, subject to parliamentary approval, comes after Seoul said it planned to reduce its forces in the wartorn country — where it had been the third-largest contributor of international forces to stabilization efforts there.
In a meeting with government officials and the ruling Uri Party, they agreed to end operations in Iraq in 2007, the party said.
South Korea sent troops to the northern Iraq city of Irbil in 2004 to support U.S.-led actions there, but has been gradually reducing its presence.
Seoul's current contribution of 2,300 troops makes it Washington's biggest coalition partner after Britain. The contingent's mission was to expire at the end of this year, but the Defense Ministry plans to submit a proposal to parliament to keep them there until the end of 2007.
"We will approve a government motion to extend the deployment for another year on the premise of the withdrawal of troops by next year," said Woo Sang-ho, a spokesman for the ruling Uri Party, which has 139 seats in the 297-member National Assembly.
The deployment is unpopular among South Koreans, mainly due to security concerns. In June 2004, Islamic insurgents beheaded a South Korean civilian working in Iraq after Seoul rejected demands to withdraw its troops.