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Bulgarian troops to guard Iraqi refuge camp

Date: 13.12.2005

Bulgaria will continue its mission in Iraq by guarding the Ashraf refuge camp, Bulgarian Defence Minister Vesselin Bliznakov announced.

Upon Bliznakov's return from Washington he said that some 120 Bulgarian troops would be involved in the new mission. The Bulgarian minister was in Washington for the 10th meeting of the Southeastern Europe defence ministers.

The Ashraf camp is located 75 km north of Baghdad. This is the most recent plan for Iraqi participation after Bulgarian troops pull out at the beginning of 2006.

The memorandum for sending troops is ready and will be presented to the Cabinet and National Assembly for approval, Minister Bliznakov explained.

Bliznakov and US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld have discussed Bulgaria's withdrawal from the Iraqi Diwaniya province and Bulgaria's future participation in the country.

The new mission will begin in the first months of 2006. The mandate of the contingent will not be shorter than four months, Minister Bliznakov said.

Bulgaria's unit in Iraq is part of a multinational peacekeeping force under Polish command. Bulgarians will continue their mission until the end of the year, the government has decided.

The Ashraf operation will consist of more police-type tasks.

Earlier this week General Nikola Kolev said that military authorities were ready to react concerning any proposal for future participation in Iraq. A final decision on the plan will be taken in January.

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