VILNIUS - Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas has again voiced the need to increase support for Iraq following a major Social Democratic Party meeting.
"I think we should extend the mission," Kirkilas told the Lithuanian National Radio and Television news agency on May 20.
The prime minister refrained from commenting on exactly what he wanted Lithuania to help with and suggested that it could be away from the front line 's sidestepping his previous disagreement with Defense Minister Juozas Olekas.
"Perhaps we will have to extend the mission for some time and we will cross over to the so called 'training mission,' meaning that Lithuania and other countries in the Alliance will help Iraq prepare soldiers and take control of the state into their own hands," Kirkilas said.
"This is just a matter of time, there are no big disputes on the issue," he said.
The prime minister's advisor for Foreign Policy and National Security, Mindaugas Jurkynas, said the details of the arrangement are still being discussed in Parliament.
"The outcome is still not clear, but there is a mandate from the parliament allowing Lithuania to remain in Iraq and Afghanistan until 2010," Jurkynas said.
Jurkynas also confirmed that the prime minister and president are working together on the issue and that they are holding a firm position for continued support.
Foreign Affairs Minister Petras Vaitiekunas, a member of the Homeland Union Party, and Olekas, a member of the Social Democrats, disagreed on the agenda for foreign troops in Iraq at the end of April.
This prompted the prime minister to weigh in on the issue earlier this month, when he commented that he backs the commitment of troops to the Middle Eastern nation.
"We have certain obligations and we cannot ignore the requests of our partners. I believe we will come up with a solution. We still have a month for discussions, debates and the assessment of all aspects. At the same time [we can make] preparations for the mission if it is extended. I would prefer it to be extended," Kirkilas said earlier this month.
The issue of extended military support for Iraq has left officials at loggerheads. President Valdas Adamkus and Olekas disagreed on the subject despite confirming the decision to extend the mission.
However, Olekas stated that he would not put pen to paper and send LITCON-11, a military squadron, to Iraq for service.
Olekas' press secretary confirmed that the combat troops already in Iraq would be withdrawn by the end of May, but declined to comment further on the issue.
Presently, the LITCON-10 squadron 's code-named Iron Wolf 's is serving alongside American troops in the eastern half of the country near the city of Al Kut, which is 150 kilometers southeast of Baghdad.
LITCON-10 is a motorized infantry brigade with 40 soldiers and is headed by Gediminas Alisauskas. Lithuania joined the international task force in Iraq, which is comprised of 26 countries, in 2003.