Saturday, March 24, 2007

Iraq's Vice President : timetable for the withdrawal does have to be set - but not yet

Iraqi vice president says quick US troop withdrawal would not benefit Iraq, West

The Associated Press
Published: March 24, 2007

US should be able to leave in 18 months

TOKYO: U.S.-led coalition forces should be able to leave Iraq in about 18 months when the country's fledgling army is better equipped to provide security, Iraq's vice president said, criticizing U.S. Democrats' call for an immediate pullout of American soldiers.

Speaking to reporters in Tokyo, Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi said that the Iraqi army was not yet ready to assume security of the country, and that a more plausible timetable was "one to one-and-a-half years."

Pulling out Early will Create a Vacuum

"If troops are pulled out on short notice, it will create a security vacuum in Iraq that cannot be filled by troops that have not been trained well enough and are not available in sufficient numbers," he said at the end of a four-day trip to Japan on Saturday.

Democrats Pushing For Quick Withdawal

"Many of the Democrats are now pushing the White House for a quick withdrawal of troops from Iraq. This is not going to benefit either Iraqi or Western interests," al-Hashimi said.

The U.S. House of Representatives on Saturday agreed in a 218-212 vote — mostly along party lines — to pull combat troops out by next year.

The legislation, which faces an uphill battle in the Senate and is unlikely to be signed by President George W. Bush, would require that combat troops come home from Iraq before September 2008 — or earlier if the Iraqi government does not meet certain conditions.

Al-Hashimi said a timetable for the withdrawal of coalition forces does have to be set if "forces of resistance" are to be drawn into dialogue aimed at achieving
reconciliation and national unity.

Iraqi Vice President ruled out an immediate pullout

"That could lead to chaos, and chaos to civil war," al-Hashimi said. "Any withdrawal should be conditioned ... tailor-made to the reform of our armed forces."

Al-Hashimi also expressed his government's resolve in the wake of a suicide bombing Friday that seriously wounded Deputy Prime Minister Salam al-Zubaie — the Iraqi government's highest-ranking Sunni Arab — and killed at least nine people.

Iraq Seeking Japan's Assistance

In Japan, al-Hashimi held talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and other officials in which he discussed the situation in Iraq and bilateral relations.

Japan sent non-combat ground troops to southern Iraq for two years and currently runs airlifts in the region for coalition forces.

Al-Hashimi welcomed Japan's support of Iraqi reconstruction and its plans to extend the airlift mission, but also called on Tokyo to help Iraqi political development as a way to ensure regional stability and security.

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