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Iraqi PM Says No Talks Yet on Long-Term US Bases


Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki says there have been no talks with U.S. officials about establishing long-term American military bases in Iraq. VOA's Barry Newhouse reports from Irbil, where Mr. Maliki responded to recent comments from the U.S. Defense Secretary about American military plans in the region.

Prime Minister Maliki told reporters that any plans for more permanent U.S. bases in the region will be made by Iraqi voters and the government.

He says one side has no right to talk about this issue on its own. He says there have been no discussions on an agreement for foreign forces to stay in Iraq for some 50 years, and that the issue ultimately will be up to the Iraqi people.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates told reporters earlier this week that American officials are looking into plans for a long-term military presence in Iraq similar to U.S. bases in South Korea. Mr. Gates said the arrangement would be based on a mutual agreement with the Iraqi government and would limit what U.S. forces could do in the country.

Mr. Maliki spoke to reporters in Irbil, the capital of Iraq's Kurdish autonomous region, where he said he also discussed the status of Kurdish-controlled military forces known as Peshmerga.

Some Sunni Arab lawmakers have charged the troops are an unlawful Kurdish militia. But Kurdistan's President Masoud Barzani said he and the prime minister agreed that the Peshmerga are part of Iraq's military.

Mr. Barzani says the situation with the Peshmerga has been resolved, and they are considered to be regional guards.

The two leaders also rejected recent comments by a Turkish general who threatened to retaliate for attacks by Kurdish separatists in Turkey.

Turkey has accused Iraqi Kurdish officials of allowing the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) to use Iraqi territory for terrorist attacks on Turkish forces. Kurdish officials deny the charge.

Prime Minister Maliki said Iraqi land must not be used as a staging ground for military operations into neighboring countries. He urged Turkish officials to resolve disputes through dialogue, not military action.

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