No cuts seen in Iraq multinational force at least through 2005 election
by MONIKA SCISLOWSKA; Associated Press Writer

Associated Press Worldstream
September 3, 2004 Friday

WARSAW, Poland -- The Polish-led multinational force in Iraq will
remain at its current strength of 6,500 at least through elections
planned for January, member nations agreed Friday.

Military officials from the 16 nations also declared a readiness to
"continue the mission on the level of 2004" after January, Gen.
Mieczyslaw Cieniuch, the Polish army deputy chief of staff, said
after a two-day meeting of troop contributors in Warsaw.

"All nations participating so far in the Polish-led force have
confirmed their willingness to continue in it until the Iraqi elections
- at least through January," he told reporters.

It wasn't immediately clear if the announcement signaled a reversal of
plans by the Polish government, which has said it plans to cut troop
numbers from 2,400 to between 1,000 and 1,500 in its next rotation,
set for January.

But leaders gave other indications Friday that they might keep Polish
troop levels at 2,400 beyond January.

Prime Minister Marek Belka told Polish radio he is considering a
"dramatically worded" letter from the Iraqi interim Prime Minister
Ayad Allawi asking Poland not to pull out or reduce its troop presence
in January because of the continuing violence in Iraq.

Defense Minister Jerzy Szmajdzinski said in an interview published
Friday in the Trybuna daily that the Polish contingent's size will
"depend on the situation in Iraq."

At the conference, Armenia said it would start contributing troops
to the multinational force, with a contingent of 50 soldiers, Polish
army spokesman Col. Zdzislaw Gnatowski said.

The Armenian contribution will include a transport unit with drivers
and a maintenance team, sappers and three doctors, Cieniuch said.

Cieniuch also said Poland plans to move the force's headquarters away
from the archaeological site of Babylon and to hand over responsibility
of the neighboring Karbala province to U.S. forces before the end
of January.