SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea’s defense ministry plans to notify parliament in June that it is withdrawing its troops in Iraq, ending what had been the third-largest foreign military presence there, an official said on Friday.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said in Seoul that South Korea’s pullout could come as soon as Iraqi troops take over security of its northern Kurdish region, a daily reported.
“A plan on the termination of the mission in Iraq will be sent to parliament in June,” a South Korean defense ministry official said by telephone. He declined to elaborate.
South Korea, which at one point had about 3,600 troops in Iraq after starting its mission in 2004, has been rolling back its presence to a target of about 1,200 this year. Parliament’s approval of the current deployment expires at the end of 2007.
“I believe the South Korean (unit) in Iraq can begin a reduction next month and can begin a pullout in the near future,” Maliki was quoted as saying by South Korea’s Hankyoreh newspaper during a visit to Seoul.
Iraqi troops will start taking over security of the northern Kurdish region, where South Korea’s troops are deployed, next month, Maliki said.
Some South Korean lawmakers, including several from the ruling party, have called for a complete pullout.