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´Nonsense´ to ask forces to leave, says Iraq president (TELEGRAPH UK) By Jack Fairweather in Baghdad, IRAQ 02/02/05)Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2005/02/02/wirq02.xml&sSheet=/news/2005/02/02/ixworld.html DAILY TELEGRAPH DAILY TELEGRAPH Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
The Iraqi president, Ghazi al-Yawer, said yesterday that it would be "complete nonsense" to ask coalition forces to leave Iraq with his country in its current state of "chaos and power vacuum".

The Iraqi president, Ghazi al-Yawer, said yesterday that it would be "complete nonsense" to ask coalition forces to leave Iraq with his country in its current state of "chaos and power vacuum".

But the president suggested that some of the 170,000 foreign soldiers in Iraq could be on their way home by the end of the year, once the country´s own security forces were built up and the insurgent threat had subsided.

Mr Yawer´s suggestion, the first indication by an Iraqi official to an end to the US-led occupation, is likely to raise eyebrows in Washington. American officials have so far resisted setting a deadline for withdrawal, fearing it would provide a boost to Iraq´s insurgency.

However, with the occupation proving deeply unpopular in Iraq, there is considerable pressure on Iraqi leaders to push for a pull-out timetable.

Mr Yawer told reporters that foreign forces had caused problems in the country since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in April 2003. "The foreign forces are part of the problem and right now we are trying to have them as part of the solution," he said.

He has previously been a strong critic of some aspects of the American military operation in Iraq, including the three-week siege of the Sunni rebel city of Fallujah in April. However, he said he believed that the overthrow of Saddam still justified the invasion. "There were some mistakes, but all in all it was positive," Mr Yawer said. "It was worth it."

Mr Yawer, a leading Sunni Arab, is tipped to continue as president when a new government is formed. Iraq´s independent electoral commission said yesterday that a final result would be announced within days, with a coalition of Shia parties likely to dominate.

The continued threat posed by insurgents was demonstrated yesterday when Islamist militants claimed on a terrorist website to have taken an American soldier hostage.

They threatened to behead him within 72 hours unless Iraqi prisoners were released. Pentagon officials said they were unaware of any soldiers missing. (© Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2004. 02/02/05)


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