Ukrainians Want Iraq Troop Recall
KIEV, Ukraine – The Ukrainian parliament in a 257-0 vote on Friday called on outgoing President Leonid Kuchma (search) to withdraw the nation's 1,600 peacekeepers from Iraq, where they make up the fourth-largest contingent.
The vote was nonbinding and analysts said that Kuchma can ignore it.
"Due to the sharp deterioration of the situation in Iraq, the parliament addresses the president with the proposal on withdrawal of troops from Iraq," the resolution said.
Andriy Lysenko (search), the head of the Defense Ministry press service, said that the military "answers fully to the president of Ukraine, and in case he signs the document, the armed forces will execute his order."
"So far, we do not have such an order," Lysenko said.
Most Ukrainians want the troops brought home, and the deployment has been a rare topic of agreement between the two Ukrainian rivals vying for the presidency. Both opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko (search) and Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych (search) support a pullout.
Kuchma ordered the troops to Iraq, and their mandate there is open-ended. Friday's vote was another indication that his hold on parliament is slipping away as he reaches the end of his term. The legislature had turned down a proposal on withdrawal earlier in the year.
Defense Minister Oleksandr Kuzmuk and other top defense officials already announced that Ukraine would gradually pull its troops from Iraq, but not without coordinating the move with other coalition members.
In October, Kuzmuk said that Ukraine and its coalition partners must first secure the January elections in Iraq.
Top Iraqi officials have repeatedly urged Kuchma not to withdraw Ukrainian troops and said they would like them to stay through the Jan. 30 elections.
In October, Ukraine downsized its contingent in Iraq by some 200 troops.
Nine Ukrainian soldiers have died in Iraq, including three in combat. More than 20 have been wounded.