Iraq to seek extension of US presence

Iraq is to ask the UN Security Council to renew the mandate governing the presence of US-led forces in the country for another year, said Hoshiyar Zebari, its foreign minister.

    Zebari insists there is no rift between Iraq and the US

    Zebari said that despite differences between the US and Iraq over security, there was "no rift whatsoever" between the two over the ultimate goal of a democratic Iraq.


    "We believe still there is a need and the presence of the multinational force is indispensable for the security and stability of Iraq and of the region at the moment."


    "At the same time, the Iraqi government is ... willing to take more security responsibilities from these forces to do its part."


    UN Security Council resolution 1637, which mandates the US-led presence, expires on December 31. 




    Nuri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister


    said last week that Iraq could probably ensure its own security in six months if the US gave Iraqi police and soldiers more training, arms and control over their own operations.


    "We believe still there is a need and the presence of the multinational force is indispensable for the security and stability of Iraq and of the region at the moment."

    Hoshiyar Zebari,
    Iraq's foreign minister

    He also said the issue of training and weapons for Iraqi forces, and the extent of Iraqi government authority over their own security, would probably be dealt with in a separate understanding with US-led forces, rather than through the UN.

    Zebari also confirmed that Walid al-Mualem, Syria's foreign minister had agreed to visit Baghdad, possibly in November.


    Zebari said the visit, the first by a Syrian minister since the US-led invasion in 2003, would be an "acid test" of Syria's attitude.


    Iraq and the US accuse Syria and Iran of supporting fighters opposed to Iraq's US-backed government.


    US visit


    Stephen Hadley, the US national security adviser, met his Iraqi counterpart in Baghdad on Monday to discuss military and political co-ordination, the Iraqi government announced.


    It said Hadley met with Mouwafak al-Rubaie in his Green Zone office after a decision late last week to form a joint commission to co-ordinate US-Iraqi relations, especially on military activity.


    "The two sides discussed the work of the committee which was agreed to by the prime minister and the American president and is designed to co-ordinate development of the Iraqi security forces, expedite military training, reconciliation among Iraqis and the war against terrorism," the statement said.


    The US embassy confirmed Hadley's visit, but gave few details.


    "He is here as part of ongoing consultations with the Iraqi government," an embassy official said.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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