Manila: Troop withdrawal as soon as possible

In a sudden reversal of policy, the Philippine government tells Aljazeera it will withdraw its 'humanitarian contingent' from Iraq.

Hoping to dissuade Filipino truck driver Angelo de la Cruz's captors from executing him, and apparently meeting one of their key demands, the Philippine government has promised to withdraw its troops from Iraq.

Philippine Deputy Foreign Minister Rafael Sequis read a statement on Aljazeera addressing the captors.

"We are responding to your request and are to withdraw our humanitarian contingent in Iraq as soon as possible," Sequis said.

Earlier, a purported Iraqi group calling itself the Khalid Ibn al-Walid Brigade threatened to behead de la Cruz by Tuesday unless Manila cave in to their demands for total troop withdrawal by 20 July.

On Sunday, Philippine President Gloria Arroyo bluntly refused to succumb to their threat.
"Our government's stand remains the same as we cannot change our commitment given to the international community," a senior Philippine diplomat in Baghdad said. 
Family in Jordan

Early on Monday, de la Cruz's wife and brother were en route to Jordan in a last-ditch bid to secure his release.
Arsenia de la Cruz was to make a personal appeal for the freedom of her husband, a 46-year-old father of eight, who was seized last week as he drove a truckload of crude oil from neighbouring Saudi Arabia.


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