State Department spokesman Sean McCormack on Thursday echoed President George Bush's refusal to lay out a calendar for withdrawing the 138,000 American troops battling an uprising 28 months after the removal of Saddam Hussein.

"As Iraqis stand up their capabilities, we and the multinational forces will be able to stand down," McCormack stated.

"We have a robust training programme for Iraqi police and security forces that's progressing under the leadership of General [David] Petraeus working very closely with the Iraqis."

Putin told reporters after meeting with Jordan's King Abdullah II earlier on Thursday that "we deem it necessary to work out a schedule for the staged withdrawal of foreign troops" in Iraq.

Perception

"Many Iraqis perceive these forces as occupying forces, and this is a reality that should be taken into account," the Russian leader said.

"Many Iraqis perceive these forces as occupying forces, and this is a reality that should be taken into account"

Vladimir Putin,
Russian president

He also said an international conference this year "would give a new impulse to the normalisation of the situation" in the war-battered country.

But McCormack withheld a response on that, saying: "I haven't seen President Putin's comments so I haven't had a chance to take a look at them and analyse what our thoughts on that might be."

The spokesman added that a Russian delegation already attended an international conference on Iraqi reconstruction that was held in Brussels on 22 June.