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Philippines Ends Peacekeeping Mission in Iraq - 2004-07-19

The Philippines has ended its peacekeeping mission in Iraq, after more than a year as part of the American-led coalition in that country. Foreign Secretary Delia Albert says the Philippines has completed the withdrawal of all its peacekeepers from Iraq.

Eighteen of the 51-member contingent left Iraq last week. The remainder headed for Kuwait en route to Manila on Monday.

Brigadier General Jovito Palparan, commander of the Filipino peacekeepers, arrived in Manila early Monday morning. General Palparan told reporters upon arrival that the Filipino peacekeepers are well and preparing to come home.

The Philippines is the latest coalition partner to pull out of Iraq. Contingents from Spain, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Honduras left earlier this year.

Manila's decision to withdraw is an attempt to secure the release of a Filipino held hostage by Iraqi militants for more than a week now. Truck driver Angelo de la Cruz's captors threatened to kill him, if the Philippines does not pull out of Iraq.

The United States and other coalition members have criticized Manila's decision. But in the Philippines, it has been widely praised.

President Gloria Arroyo narrowly won a second term last month. She is trying to win support from the masses - millions of Filipinos - who like Mr. de la Cruz, are forced to work in dangerous places such as the Middle East because there are few jobs at home.

There is no word yet on the fate of Mr. de la Cruz.