17 May 2004
BAGHDAD – Spanish troops were completing their last combat operations in the Iraqi city of Diwaniyah Monday and will now concentrate solely on “dismantling and withdrawal duties”, military sources told EFE.
Command of the mission in and around Diwaniyah, some 180 kilometres (112 miles) south of Baghdad, was transferred during a ceremony to US troops who will now be in charge of patrolling the area, said Maj. Jose Leon, spokesman for “Base España” – as the Spanish dubbed their operational headquarters in Iraq.
In the brief ceremony honouring soldiers killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom, Gen. Jose Manuel Muñoz, in charge of the Spanish withdrawal unit, thanked coalition forces.
Polish Gen. Mieczyslaw Bieniek, the Multinational Division commander in Iraq’s south-central region which included Spanish and Latin American troops, was named honorary legionnaire at the ceremony.
Bieniek thanked the Spanish soldiers for their effective service and bid them a heartfelt farewell.
The Spanish government has set 27 May as the deadline for the complete withdrawal of troops from Base España, which served as headquarters for the Plus Ultra I and II brigades.
But this date may be brought forward by three to five days, depending on available resources and the security situation, coalition sources told EFE.
They added that “it is almost certain that by 20 May not one Spanish soldier will be left in Iraq”.
[Copyright EFE with Expatica]
Subject: Spanish news