Spain will withdraw by year's end up to half of the 1,100 troops Madrid is contributing to the U.N. peacekeeping force in Lebanon, Defense Minister Pedro Morenes said here Tuesday.
Many of the objectives of the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon, known as Unifil, have been met and bringing the soldiers home will save money, the minister told Parliament's defense committee.
Spain's difficult economic situation "counsels maximum rationalization" of the country's international efforts, he said.
He said the reduction of the Spanish contingent has been agreed with the other major contributors to the more-than-12,000-strong Unifil effort, Italy and France.
Madrid had initially planned to withdraw around 200 soldiers from Lebanon this year and roughly 300 more in 2013.
Unifil, which includes troops from 36 nations, was deployed in September 2006 after a brief but bloody conflict between Israel and Lebanon.
Regarding Afghanistan, where some 1,500 Spanish military personnel are currently serving, Morenes said he does not anticipate any change to the existing withdrawal timetable, which calls for draw-downs of 10 percent this year and 40 percent in 2013.
The remaining Spanish troops will be pulled out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014, under the current plan.
Morenes said the Spanish government does not rule out an accelerated withdrawal from Afghanistan "if the situation, the safety of the troops and accord with the allies permits it."
Spain will maintain its contribution to the anti-piracy operation in the Indian Ocean at current levels, the defense minister said. EFE