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Hungary Pledges to  Continue Support of US in Iraq - 2004-05-13


Hungary says it will continue to support the United States in Iraq, despite concerns over the recent reports of abuse of prisoners by U.S. soldiers. Hungary, along with the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia have pledged they will stay in the U.S.-led coalition and continue to share U.S. objectives in Iraq.

Hungary's Foreign Ministry spokesman Tamas Toth says his government will keep its 300 troops in Iraq, despite pressure from the opposition to withdraw from the coalition. He said the reports of abuse of Iraqi prisoners by American troops will not affect relations between the United States and Hungary.

?Torturing even one human being is unacceptable and it might sound as cruel,? he said. ?But because of the torture of some prisoners in Iraq, which is unacceptable, it cannot, and it may not, and it must not change the position of the Hungarian government. It is at least crystal clear that when Hungary joined the international coalition [in Iraq] we joined because Hungary at least shared some value and objectives and they are still the same.?

At a meeting Wednesday of the four Central European countries belonging to the so called Visegrad group, the governments of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia condemned the prisoner abuse. However, the four countries expressed their support for U.S. policy for the reconstruction of Iraq and agreed to stay in the U.S.-led coalition.

They also agreed to continue their regional grouping, even though all four have joined the European Union.

The Visegrad group was set up in 1991 as a forum for regional cooperation on economic, political, and cultural issues. In a joint declaration issued Wednesday, prime ministers of the four countries said they will use the group to help each other in pushing for Central European initiatives in the European Union.

The Visegrad leaders also agreed to support EU expansion further to the east to include countries like Ukraine and the Balkan states.

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