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Poland's new premier to end his country's Iraq mission in 2008

Poland’s new-elected prime minister Donald Tusk Wednesday that next year he would end his country’s mission in Iraq.

Poland, a staunch U.S. ally, sent combat troops to the 2003 war in Iraq and still has some 900 soldiers stationed in the southeast, despite public displeasure with the mission. Polish troops now primarily train Iraqi forces and renovate schools and hospitals.

"We want to finish the mission in this form in 2008," Tusk was quoted by the "Polska" daily as saying. He did not elaborate.

Tusk made pulling out of Iraq a top issue in his recent election campaign, in which his pro-EU Civic Platform party ousted the socially conservative government of Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski.

Tusk said Tuesday that he is close to wrapping up coalition talks with the EU-friendly Polish People's Party on forging a new government to take over from Kaczynski, who is to resign Nov. 5.

In the interview published Wednesday, Tusk vowed to continue good relations with Washington, but did not say whether Poland will host a proposed U.S. missile defense base.

"We must know whether (the base) increases or diminishes Poland's security before making the final decision," Tusk was quoted as saying. "Thus far, the Polish government has not been able to answer these questions."

Kaczynski has voiced strong support for hosting 10 interceptors as part of global missile shield. The U.S. also hopes to set up a radar base in Poland's southwestern neighbor, the Czech Republic, as part of the system.

Polish and U.S. officials have held four rounds of bilateral talks, but have yet to reach a deal.