Source AP ©

Bulgarian mission in Iraq to be extended for year

Bulgarian Government will propose extending mission of 120 non-combat troops to Iraq until 2009, according to its press office.

The government's proposal, which will be submitted to parliament and needs parliamentary approval, will extend the mission of Bulgaria's 120 servicemen and 35 support staff in Iraq by another year after the current deadline expires on March 31, 2008.

If approved, the decision would become effective after the U.N. Security Council decides to extend by a year the mandate for the multinational force in Iraq, the government's press office said.

The Bulgarian unit, under U.S. command, helps guard the Ashraf refugee camp, about 70 kilometers (45 miles) north of Baghdad.

Thirteen Bulgarian soldiers have died in Iraq since August 2003, when Bulgaria joined the U.S.-led forces. Seven died in insurgent attacks, one was killed by U.S. troops in a friendly fire incident and five died in vehicle accidents.

Six Bulgarian civilians also have been killed by Iraqi insurgents.