Sunday, July 10, 2011

Iraqi parties to decide on US presence

Iraq's President Jalal Talabani

Source: Press TV

Iraq's President Jalal Talabani says the country's political parties will have two weeks to make a final decision on the extension of US troop presence in Iraq beyond December 2011.

"All parties have discussed the matter, and we have all agreed that each one will... give its final response within two weeks," AFP quoted Talabani as saying on Saturday.

He made the remarks in a press conference after a meeting with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki as well as top Shia, Sunni and Kurd political officials.

"The issue of the US troop presence has been thoroughly discussed and our brothers (politicians) decided to tackle the issue with their friends, allies and parties to come after two weeks with a decisive result," Talabani said.

Iraq's Sadr Movement has rejected the likely presence of US troops beyond 2011, saying it will take up arms against American forces if US military does not withdraw from the war-weary country.

“If the American troops stay in Iraq ... We will do our best to press or to put further number of our fighters to kill them,” said Salah al-Obeidi, a spokesman for the Sadr Movement, on Saturday.

This is while top US military official Admiral Mike Mullen said in a Thursday press conference in Washington that the United States and Iraq are holding tough negotiations on extending the American military presence beyond the 2011 deadline stipulated in the US-Iraq Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA).

Senior US administration and military officials have expressed the desire to maintain between 8,500 and 10,000 active-duty soldiers in Iraq in 2012, but the Iraqi people and officials have demanded Washington withdraw from the war-stricken nation.

The US invaded Iraq in 2003 under the pretext of destroying alleged weapons of mass destruction (WMD) possessed by the regime of former dictator Saddam Hussein.

However, it was later found that the country did not possess any WMDs at the time and that the US and Britain, which led the invasion, were well-aware about the non-existence of such weapons in Iraq, but took military action against the oil-rich nation anyway.

Over one million Iraqis have been killed as a result of the occupation, according to a study by the prestigious British polling group, Opinion Research Business (ORB).

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