Parliament agrees to send 44 soldiers to Afghanistan
ZAGREB, Croatia - Parliament gave Croat soldiers the green light Thursday to serve in the U.S-led peace mission in Afghanistan.
Although some critics expected stiff opposition, the initiative to send 44 Croat policemen to the war-ravaged country won support from 104 lawmakers in the 151-seat legislature. Twenty-one were opposed, one abstained, and the rest were absent.
The soldiers will depart after New Year's day and serve in a German brigade in the capital Kabul, helping to "develop security structures," said Deputy Minister of Defense Zlatko Gareljic.
The six-month mission will cost the government some 22.5 million kunas (US$3 million).
A member of NATO's Partnership for Peace, Croatia is eager to show that it supports the U.S.-led war on terror and is militarily equipped to deserve NATO membership.
Some smaller nationalist parties opposed the decision, arguing that the country, which emerged from a bloody war for independence in 1995, had a moral obligation not to expose its soldiers to possible further suffering.
President Stipe Mesic, the army's supreme commander, has the right to veto the parliament decision, but he has previously voiced support for the move.