At the start of a week-long visit to France, Jalal Talabani said on Thursday that his country was not in a civil war. He also accused the media of focusing only on negative stories.

However, he said international terrorists were still concentrating all their efforts on Iraq which meant the country needed outside help to defeat them.

Speaking at a conference in Paris, Talabani said: "We need time. Not 20 years, but time. I personally can say that two to three years will be enough to build up our forces and say to our American friends 'bye bye with thanks'."

Outside support

Talabani was due to meet Jacques Chirac, the French president,  later on Thursday.

The Iraqi president said he wanted France to be actively involved in the rebuilding of the country and to help train Iraqi forces.

Public pressure is building in both the US and Britain to withdraw troops from Iraq.

George Bush's Republicans face possible loss of control of Congress in November 7 elections, with dismay over his Iraq policy a critical factor in voter intentions.