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McCain Remains Opposed to Iraq Troop Withdrawal Deadline


Republican presidential contender John McCain intends to focus on domestic economic issues this week while his Democratic opponent, Senator Barack Obama, continues his tour of the Middle East and Europe. But on Monday, McCain was quick to respond to Obama's meeting in Baghdad with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Malaki. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.

Senator McCain met with former President George H.W. Bush at Mr. Bush's summer home on the Maine coast.

Afterward, McCain was asked about Senator Obama's visit to Iraq and about a comment from an Iraqi government spokesman who said his country hopes all U.S. troops would withdraw from Iraq by 2010. That timeline roughly coincides with Obama's pledge to withdraw most U.S. combat troops from Iraq within 16 months of taking office.

McCain was asked if the Iraqi comment about a timeline undercut his message that U.S. forces must stay in Iraq until victory is achieved, without regard to a particular timetable.

"It is based on conditions on the ground and that we have to maintain the progress we have. The major point here is that Senator Obama could not have gone to Iraq as he did because he opposed the surge. It was the surge that succeeded. It was the surge that is winning this war. He opposed it. He said it would not succeed," he said.

McCain has been hammering away at Obama for weeks over the fact that McCain was an early supporter of the Bush administration's military surge strategy in Iraq while Obama opposed it.

McCain also got some support from the White House Monday when presidential spokeswoman Dana Perino said the administration remains opposed to setting a timetable for withdrawal, even though officials remain open to discussing what they call a general time horizon for U.S. troops to come home.

"The Iraqis definitely want to take over their own security. We want them to do so as well, but we want to jointly do it in a way to make sure we do not pull out arbitrarily," he said.

During a previous stopover in Afghanistan, Senator Obama told the CBS program Face the Nation he favors pulling some troops out of Iraq soon and shifting them to support the fight against the Taliban and al-Qaida in and around Afghanistan.

"There is starting to be a growing consensus that it is time for us to withdraw some of our combat troops out of Iraq, deploy them here in Afghanistan and I think we have to seize that opportunity. Now is the time to do it," he said.

Obama supporters hope his international tour will bolster his foreign policy and national security credentials with U.S. voters. Recent polls give McCain the edge in those two areas.

For his part, McCain plans to focus on domestic economic concerns this week while Obama is overseas. Public opinion polls show the economy and rising fuel prices are top concerns for U.S. voters as they look ahead to the November election, and Obama leads McCain in poll questions about who would do a better job of handling economic issues.

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