Global Policy Forum

President of Poland 'Deceived' on Iraq


By Thomas Fuller

International Herald Tribune
March 19, 2004

But Kwasniewski will try to persuade the Spanish to stay

President Aleksander Kwasniewski of Poland said Thursday that he had been "deceived" by information on weapons of mass destruction before the Iraq war and that Poland might pull some troops out of Iraq earlier than planned.

The comments were the first signs of criticism of the war by the staunch U.S. ally. Poland has 2,460 troops in Iraq, the fourth-largest foreign contingent after the United States, Britain and Italy. "Naturally, one may protest the reasons for the war action in Iraq," Kwasniewski said. "I personally think that Iraq today without Saddam Hussein is a truly better Iraq than with Saddam Hussein.

"But of course I am uncomfortable with the fact that we were deceived by the information on weapons of mass destruction."

Kwasniewski used the word "zwodzeni," which is translated as "deceived" in the Longmans Polish-English dictionary. Some Anglophone news agencies translated the word as "misled."

Kwasniewski spoke just days after the incoming Socialist government in Spain said it would withdraw its troops from Iraq unless the United Nations took over peacekeeping there before the summer. Spain has about 1,300 soldiers in Iraq. Kwasniewski said he would "try to persuade" his "Spanish friends to continue the mission."

He spoke in an interview with European journalists and then confirmed the comments at a news conference. "We were informed that there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq - there is a probability that there are weapons of mass destruction - and now there's no confirmation," he said.

The president did not directly answer a reporter's question about who deceived him but said that this was "the problem of the United States, of Britain and also of many other nations."

He told a Polish radio station earlier in the day that Poland might start withdrawing its troops from Iraq early next year, according to The Associated Press. The government had previously given a date of mid-2005.

At the news conference, he sought to clarify the remarks about pulling troops out."It is my belief that from 2005 there will be a change in the role of the international community in Iraq," he said. He said that he believed the United Nations and local police would take on more peacekeeping duties, thus reducing the need for Polish troops.

Poland commands a large swath of south-central Iraq.

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