Poland's new government plans to end the country's role in the US-led coalition in Iraq in its "current form" next year, prime minister-designate Donald Tusk said in an interview published Monday.
Speaking to the daily Gazeta Wyborcza, Tusk said it was important that the United States recognise that his pro-business Civic Platform had won power with a pledge to "end the mission in Iraq at least in its current form, in 2008".
"I support that position," said Tusk, who is poised to take office after trouncing the conservative Law and Justice party in the October 21 snap election.
Warsaw has been one of the closest US allies over Iraq. Polish troops took part in the 2003 invasion, sparking a bitter verbal battle with anti-war European Union members, notably France.
US-Polish ties strengthened after the election in 2005 of Law and Justice.
Last December, President Lech Kaczynski extended the deployment of its 900-strong force until the end of this year, and the conservative government had said it was planning to send a new group of soldiers in 2008.
In its election manifesto, Civic Platform promised a "rapid withdrawal" of Poland's troops -- a highly popular idea, because opinion surveys show that more than 80 percent of Poles oppose the mission.
But neither the party nor Tusk have elaborated on a target date, nor explained what a change from the mission's "current form" would imply.
During the election campaign, outgoing Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the president's identical twin brother, had fiercely defended the Iraq mission, saying "desertion is always the worst and stupidest option".
But Civic Platform's poll ratings jumped on the eve of the election after Tusk challenged Jaroslaw Kaczynski in a televised debate, asking the premier: "What gives you the right, you and your brother, to extend the mission in Iraq ... to put the lives of Polish soldiers at risk?"
Last Friday, 31-year-old Corporal Andrzej Filipek died in a mine blast in southeastern Iraq, bringing to 22 the number of Polish soldiers killed in Iraq since 2003.
Last month, Polish Ambassador Edward Pietrzyk was seriously injured and his driver killed by a roadside bomb in Baghdad.
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