Thursday, June 29, 2006

US surprised at reports Romania wants to leave Iraq

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The United States said it was surprised by reports that Romania planned to withdraw its troops from Iraq, and said it would ask for clarification.

State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli said Washington had not been informed of any plans to pull out the 890-strong Romanian force, which he said had performed ably and courageously.

Earlier, Romanian Prime Minister Calin Tariceanu had said he would ask Romania's Supreme Defence Council (CSAT) to withdraw the soldiers because of the human and financial cost of staying in Iraq.

Adding to the confusion, amid signs of political dischord in Romania, the pro-US President Traian Basescu said later there must be a proper national debate before withdrawing the troops.

"These latest reports from Romania are, frankly, a surprise," Ereli told reporters.

"We hadn't been informed about them. They're certainly not consistent with what we've heard from senior Romanian leadership, and I think we'll be looking for clarification."

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