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Poles Question Troop Deployment in Iraq

November 08, 2003|From Reuters

WARSAW — Poland's leaders faced tough questions on their nation's troop deployment in Iraq on Friday from a nation preparing to bid a hero's farewell to the first Polish soldier killed there.

"Poland pays homage to a hero," read tabloid Fakt's front page, alongside a picture of Maj. Hieronim Kupczyk, a civil defense instructor killed in an ambush Thursday.

Kupczyk's funeral will be Monday.

Despite the fatality, Prime Minister Leszek Miller defended Poland's leadership of a 9,000-strong multinational force that took control of central-southern Iraq in September.

"The threat of international terrorism, of regimes which have deadly weapons at their disposal and are prepared to use them ... is a real one," Miller said in a radio interview. "There is no country or place ... which is immune to this threat."

But the public is skeptical, with a recent survey showing 57% of Poles opposing the mission and 37% supporting it.

One opposition leader said Miller and President Aleksander Kwasniewski -- commander in chief of the armed forces -- should be held personally responsible for the soldier's death.

Miller embarks this weekend on a Middle East tour and will visit troops in Iraq on Tuesday -- Poland's independence day and a symbolic date in a country subjected to foreign domination for much of its modern history.

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