"How long will probably depend on events, I don't think we can put a date on it," Myers, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters in the western German city of Wiesbaden on Monday.

  

"I don't think we can put an official date on it, but clearly we would expect the security to improve as we move towards elections this fall or early next year in Iraq," he said.

  

The withdrawal of US-led forces from Iraq has been a subject of hot debate, particularly since the United States and Britain submitted a draft resolution to the UN Security Council on handing power to the Iraqis at the end of June.

 

Referendum

  

"How long will probably depend on events,
I don't think we can put
a date on it"

Gen. Richard Myers,
chief military adviser to
President Bush

An early draft of the resolution set an end for the mandate of US-led forces in Iraq "upon completion of the political process" that will see a constitution written and a new Iraqi government elected.

  

Under the temporary constitution, elections for a national assembly must be held before 31 January 2005. The new parliament will then begin drafting a constitution and preparing for elections for a permanent government.

  

The constitution must be put to a referendum in October 2005 and elections for a government must take place by 15 December.

  

If the constitution is rejected, the assembly will have to be dissolved and a new one elected to draw up a new constitution before the end of 2006.

  

US generals in Iraq said in March that they expected their troops to remain in the conflict-torn country for at least two years.