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Fight Against Terrorism in Iraq Has No Timetable Says Talabani

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani says he has no specific timetable for when U.S. troops will withdraw from his country. Mr. Talabani's comments followed talks with President Bush at the White House. VOA's Chris Simkins has more on the story from Washington.

Following an hour-long meeting with President Bush, Iraqi President Talabani said that no date would be set for when some 140,000 U.S. troops could begin withdrawing from Iraq. At a joint news conference following their meeting, the Iraqi leader said that the American and international military are still needed.

"The American and the international presence in Iraq is vital for democracy in Iraq and also to prevent the foreign interference in the internal affairs of Iraq,” said Mr. Talabani. “We will set no timetable for withdrawal Mr. President. A timetable will help the terrorists and will encourage them that they could defeat a superpower of the world and the Iraqi people."

Mr. Talabani did say he hoped that by the end of 2006 Iraqi forces will be ready to take over security responsibilities now being handled by U.S. troops. But he says before any action is taken there has to be complete agreement between the United States and Iraq.

In an interview with the Washington Post newspaper on Monday Mr. Talabani had suggested the United States could withdraw up to 50,000 troops from Iraq by the end of this year, because there would be enough trained Iraqi forces ready to begin taking control of parts of the country.

Mr. Talabani also urged Iraq's neighbors to join him in fighting terrorism, which he called the enemy of all Arab and Muslim people.

For his part, Mr. Bush pledged that the United States will not waver in helping Iraq defeat terrorists and President Bush urged Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to do more to prevent the flow of foreign fighters from coming into Iraq.

"The Syrian leader must understand that we (The United States) take his lack of action seriously and the government is going to become more and more isolated as a result of one, not being cooperative with the Iraqi government in terms of securing Iraq and two, not being fully transparent in what they did in Lebanon," Mr. Bush said during the news conference.

Syria dominated its neighbor, Lebanon, for years and is accused of carrying out a number of political assassinations. Mr. Bush says he plans to discuss ways of getting Syria to change its behavior in regard to emerging democracies in the Middle East when he meets with world leaders at the U.N. General Assembly in New York this week.