Sun, Nov 25, 2007 - Page 6 News List

Poland to pull out of Iraq: PM

BIG CHANGES New Prime Minister Donald Tusk laid out a vision for his country that includes tax cuts, more emphasis on relations with the EU and revising business laws


Poland's new prime minister outlined ambitious plans for the next four years in his inaugural address, saying that he plans to withdraw troops from Iraq next year and push for the quick adoption of the euro.

In a three-hour speech to parliament, Donald Tusk laid out a vision for the country that includes more capitalism -- privatization, tax cuts and simplifying business laws -- to bolster the economy of this ex-communist country, and a stronger emphasis on relations with the EU, NATO and nations close to home.

A confidence vote on his government, originally set for Friday evening, was postponed until yesterday morning after debates by lawmakers dragged on. The government was expected to easily pass the vote -- a routine step all new governments must face -- given that Tusk's coalition, composed of his pro-business Civic Platform party and the centrist Polish People's Party, has 240 votes in the 460-member lower house.

While Tusk and his party want to continue the strong friendship with the US, he gave a taste of plans that, taken together, would suggest that the country plans to assert more independence in its relations with Washington.

Tusk said that, by the end of next year, Poland would withdraw its 900 troops from Iraq, where it leads an international contingent of about 2,000 soldiers from 10 nations in the south-central part of the country.

"We will carry out that operation with the conviction that we have done more than what our allies -- especially the US -- had expected from us," he said.

Tusk's campaigned on promises to end the unpopular mission, clashing on the issue with his opponent, then-incumbent Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who argued withdrawing would amount to desertion.

Tusk said he planned to keep Poland's 1,200-strong force in Afghanistan next year.

US State Department spokesman Edgar Vasquez said on Friday that the US had been discussing the issue with the new Polish government and was grateful for Poland's contribution.

"Poland had indicated that it will consult fully with the United States and other allies when conducting their withdrawal to ensure that there is not any reduction in stability in the area they are leaving," Vasquez said.

Tusk also said he will resume talks with the US on accepting a US missile defense base in Poland -- but only after consulting with NATO and other neighboring countries -- signaling a greater hesitancy over the plan than the previous government.

"NATO is the main pillar and guarantor of Poland's security," Tusk said.

Many of Tusk's points were met by applause in the chamber, though the sheer length of his speech -- the longest by a prime minister since the fall of communism -- was clearly an annoyance to some.

Some lawmakers could be seen dozing off, while an opposition lawmaker slammed Tusk's long speech as reminiscent of long-winded communists.

"Donald Tusk is the Fidel Castro of Polish politics," said Zbigniew Girzynski, a lawmaker with Law and Justice.

Tusk, who was sworn in a week ago, spent the largest part of the policy speech on domestic issues.

Tusk contrasts with Kaczynski's euro-skeptic approach, which favored strong government involvement in the economy and took a go-slow approach toward the euro.

Kaczynski's team clashed with Brussels on a wide range of issues.

Tusk pledged to simplify business regulations and speed up privatization. He said less government interference was needed to stimulate private enterprise and help Poland build on the economic growth it has enjoyed in recent years.

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