Canada to move some troops from Iraq to Kuwait: official

Canadian Chief of the Defence Staff General Jonathan Vance (L) speaks to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the start of the 42nd Parliament in December 2015 (AFP Photo/GEOFF ROBINS)

Montreal (AFP) - Some of the estimated 500 Canadian troops in Iraq will be moved temporarily to neighboring Kuwait in the coming days to ensure their safety amid rising tensions in the region, a top Canadian military official said Tuesday.

General Jonathan Vance, chief of defense staff, announced the "operational pause" in a letter posted on Twitter to families of deployed military personnel.

"Over the coming days, and as a result of Coalition and NATO planning, some of our people will be moved temporarily from Iraq to Kuwait," he said.

"Simply put, we are doing this to ensure their safety and security."

The move comes amid heightened concerns over possible Iranian retaliation for the killing of the country's top commander, Qasem Soleimani, on Friday on the orders of US President Donald Trump.

NATO, which suspended its training mission in Iraq after the killing, said earlier Tuesday it also was temporarily "repositioning" some personnel to locations inside and outside Iraq.

Several other countries, including Germany and Romania, announced plans to move their forces. France, for its part, said it had no intention to withdraw its troops from Iraq.

Vance did not specify how many Canadian troops would be moved out.

"The situation in Iraq is complex and it is best to pause our work there in order to fully concentrate our attention and efforts toward the safety and security of our personnel while the situation develops," Vance said.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau discussed the situation in talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and with Jordan's King Abdullah, his office said, and they agreed to press for a "de-escalation" of the tensions.

Trudeau and the Jordanian king also agreed "on the need to remain focused on fighting Daesh," the statement said, referring the Islamic State group.