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Poland ending Chad, Lebanon, Golan missions: defence minister

The Golan Heights
by Staff Writers
Warsaw (AFP) Feb 4, 2009
Poland is to quit UN-flagged peacekeeping missions in Chad, Lebanon and the Golan Heights, Defence Minister Bogdan Klich said Wednesday, citing crisis-driven spending cuts and a strategic rethink.

"These three missions will end, notably because of budget cuts, but also because missions under United Nations' auspices are not among Poland's priorities," Klich announced on the Polish rolling news channel TNV24, without announcing exactly when the troops would be withdrawn.

"NATO and EU missions are Poland's priority," he added.

Poland's biggest ongoing commitment is to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, where it has 1,600 troops and has been considering adding 600 more.

Poland's current 400-member mission in Chad is the second-largest after France's in the European Union's peacekeeping force there, which also operates in Central Africa.

The EU's UN-approved mandate expires in March and the mission is to pass under the command of the world body.

Poland also has nearly 500 troops in Lebanon as part of a UN peacekeeping force which is helping to monitor a ceasefire between Israel and the militia group Hezbollah following a month-long war in 2006.

A further 360 Poles are based in the Golan Heights, which Israel captured from Syria in a 1967 war. A UN mission has been deployed there since 1974.

Cutting the missions is part of a wider belt-tightening announced by the Polish government on Tuesday.

Warsaw aims to slash spending by 19.7 billion zlotys (4.27 billion euros, 5.56 billion dollars) due to the global financial crisis.

Although Poland is expected to avoid recession, the government has warned that economic growth could fall to 1.7 percent this year, significantly lower than the official 3.7 percent forecast in the 2009 budget.

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London (AFP) Feb 4, 2009
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