Iraq rejects permanent U.S. bases
Tue 11 Dec 2007, 15:47 GMT
By Peter Graff
BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iraq will never allow the United States to have permanent military bases on its soil, the government’s national security adviser said, calling the issue a “red line” that cannot be crossed.
“We need the United States in our war against terrorism, we need them to guard our border sometimes, we need them for economic support and we need them for diplomatic and political support,” Mowaffaq al-Rubaie said.
“But I say one thing, permanent forces or bases in Iraq for any foreign forces is a red line that cannot be accepted by any nationalist Iraqi,” he told Dubai-based al Arabiya television.
Rubaie’s comments, in an interview first broadcast late on Monday night, were the clearest sign yet that Iraq’s leaders are looking ahead to the days when they have full responsibility for the country’s defence.
The United States has around 160,000 troops in Iraq, officially under a United Nations mandate enacted after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.
Iraq formally asked the United Nations on Monday to renew that mandate for a year until the end of 2008. It made clear it would not extend the mandate beyond next year and the mandate could be revoked sooner at Iraq’s request.
U.S. President George W. Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki signed a declaration of principles last month agreeing to friendly long-term ties. Arrangements for U.S. troops to stay beyond next year will be negotiated in early 2008.
Violence in Iraq has fallen in recent months after Bush sent an extra 30,000 troops. Washington intends to reduce its force by more than 20,000 by June 2008 and is expected to decide in March on troop levels beyond that date.
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