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Honduran troops complete withdrawal from Iraq
Updated: 2004-05-19 13:15

The last Honduran troops in Iraq have completed their withdrawal earlier than planned because of the spiraling violence in the war zone, a Honduran defense ministry spokesman said on Tuesday.

"All our soldiers have now left Iraq and are in Kuwait. The last group arrived in Kuwait today," Lt. Col. Rafael Moreno told Reuters.

The Central American nation's 370-strong contingent had intended to stay in Iraq until its mandate expired in July but decided to pull out early after Spain's announcement last month that it would withdraw its 1,400 troops.

The Honduran troops started their withdrawal on May 11 and the last group to leave will fly back on Friday to a military base shared with U.S. troops in central Honduras, Moreno said.

Spain had been in charge of troops from other Spanish-speaking nations in Iraq, including those from El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.

Although Central American countries were keen to build on close trade and immigration ties with the United States by sending troops to Iraq, support for the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq has dwindled as attacks on foreign troops and civilians have escalated.

"There was a total change in the situation and our troops weren't going to fight. We went (to participate in) operations of stabilization, security and reconstruction," said Moreno.

"When the armed violence began to escalate, our troops had to regroup and stop their patrols and vigilance due to the threats."

Nicaragua brought its troops home in February and said recently it would send them back only as part of a United Nations peace mission.

The Dominican Republic has announced it will also bring its troops home early. El Salvador has said it will keep its soldiers in Iraq until their scheduled return in August but has yet to say whether they will be replaced.

Honduras sent troops to Iraq around the middle of last year. They have mainly been clearing mines and providing medical care in central Iraq.

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