Romanian minister says 500 troops to leave Iraq

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) -- Romania's defense minister says the country's 501 peacekeepers in Iraq will all leave by the end of the year.

Teodor Melescanu said some Romanian military personnel will work in 2009 as counselors to local authorities and supporting the civilian population.

Speaking Thursday in the western city of Arad, Melescanu said was awaiting clarification of that new role from the Iraqi government.

He says Iraq "will call for a substantial reduction in foreign military troops and a change in (their) mission."

The moves must be formally approved by Romania's Supreme Defense Council.

Two Romanian soldiers have died in Iraq since 2003. Romania is member of NATO and also has 644 soldiers serving in Afghanistan.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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