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Honduras to Pull Troops Out of Iraq - 2004-04-20

Another member of the U.S.-led military coalition in Iraq has announced it is pulling its troops out of the country. Honduras now follows Spain in saying it will leave the coalition at a time when the United States is extending the tour of American soldiers there because of a shortage of troops and amid continuing attacks on coalition forces. Other Latin American countries may be preparing to quit Iraq as well.

Honduras' nearly 400 troops form part of the same division in south-central Iraq that includes some 1300 Spanish soldiers, which are pulling out as well. In Baghdad, U.S. General Mark Kimmitt says the commitment of other Latin American members of the coalition remains uncertain.

"The Spanish have announced their withdrawal, the Hondurans have announced their withdrawal," he said. "We understand the El Salvadorans have decided to stay in the country until their departure at the end of July, beginning of August, and I don't know that the Dominicans have made a decision at this point."

El Salvador has nearly 400 troops in Iraq, the Dominican Republic about 300.

Secretary of State Colin Powell told reporters he received solid commitments from other coalition members to remain in Iraq. However, Thailand now says it will bring its more than 400 troops home if they have to stop reconstruction projects and instead focus on defending themselves from attack.

General Kimmitt also told reporters he does not yet know how the gap left by the departing troops will be filled. "It could either be replaced with existing forces on the ground, it could be replaced with new contributions," he said.

Meanwhile, the U.S. military is investigating the shooting of two journalists working for the U.S. funded television station al-Iraqiya. A correspondent and his driver were killed by coalition gunfire Monday near the city of Samarra when General Kimmitt says they refused to obey repeated warning shots to stop while approaching a coalition base.

"Five signs clearly prohibiting filming and stopping near the base were displayed in the area as part of local force protection measures," he added. "We just don't have enough information at this point either to assess blame, innocence or fault."

A cameraman traveling with the group denies the journalists were filming at the time, saying they were fired upon after conducting interviews at a police station.