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Iraqi President Rules Out Withdrawal Timetable


Iraq's president has ruled out setting a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S.-led coalition forces, until Iraqi forces can handle security duties on their own. President Jalal Talabani made the comment in an address to the U.N. General Assembly.

In his U.N. speech, the Iraqi president said terrorists operating in his country are trying to create security chaos as part of a campaign to derail the rebuilding efforts. Speaking through an interpreter, he said talk of withdrawing the U.S.-led coalition force is premature, until Iraqi troops can control the violence.

"These forces are present in Iraq pursuant to an international resolution and they are essential for us in the present circumstances, while accomplishing the mission of building our armed forces that are capable of ending terrorism and maintaining stability and security," he said. "Only then, will it be possible to talk of a timetable for the withdrawal of the multinational forces from Iraq."

Mr. Talabani thanked President Bush for his leadership in what he called "the campaign to liberate Iraq from tyranny."

But he warned that the patience of Iraqis with the continuing violence is wearing thin, and urged neighboring countries to prevent foreign fighters from crossing into Iraq.

"We express the hope from the Arab and regional parties, and neighboring countries, in particular, will interact with us to put a halt to any activity or support or encouragement by any means of the forces of terrorism," he added.

U. S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad was in the General Assembly hall for Mr. Talabani's speech. Afterward, he urged the world body and other interested parties to do more to help Iraq re-establish security.

"I want to call on the United Nations, which is playing a positive role with regard to the Iraq international compact to increase its activities in Iraq," he said. "The same applies to other international organizations and the international community as a whole."

Ambassador Khalilzad reinforced the Iraqi leader's concern about the interference of foreign fighters, saying, only when security conditions improve, will it be possible to reduce the presence of coalition forces.

The coalition force operates under a U.N. Security Council mandate authorizing a strength of up to 180,000 troops. That mandate is due to expire December 31.

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