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UPDATED: 14:17, June 25, 2004
Portugal might withdraw police from Iraq, says minister
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Portugal's Interior Minister Antonio Figuereido Lopes said Friday that the military police deployed in Iraq might be withdrawn if the "conflict escalates."

"If we consider the hypothesis that the conflict escalates and the National Republican Guard (policemen with military capacity) lacks the conditions to fulfill its mission, the only thing we cando is to pull out that contingent," Figuereido Lopes said in an interview with the state-run Antena Uno radio.

The minister said he kept "the expectation that the GNR might fulfill its mission."

Asked on the possibility that the military police might be replaced by the army, Figuereido Lopes said "that hypothesis is not on the table."

However, he warned that "in the wake of a total worsening of the situation, and if the United Nations assumes direct responsibilities in Iraq with a reorganization of the military force in the territory, then we will have to accompany the situation."

The GNR's mandate in Iraq ends on May 12 but the Portuguese government said it might be extended, if that were the desire of Iraq's interim government due to step in on June 30.

"It all depends on the evolution of the situation in Iraq, whatwe wish is that by the end of the two six-month mandates, the GNR contingent may return," the minister said.

Source: Xinhua

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