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Iraqi VP Speaks Against Foreign Troop Withdrawal


Iraqi Vice President, Tareq al Hashimi is warning against any quick withdrawal of foreign forces from his country. Speaking in London, Hashimi also warns of continued interference in Iraq by neighboring Iran. VOA's Sonja Pace reports from London.

Speaking at the Chatham House research center in central London, Vice President al Hashimi said that Iraq's future must be secured through political means and without outside interference. But, he acknowledged that the increasing violence and lack of security, especially in Baghdad, and the growing strength of sectarian militias make the presence of foreign forces necessary. For that reason, Hashimi said additional American troops, as promised last week by President Bush, are needed.

"The growing pressure of the militias happened because there is an acute shortage of manpower [security forces] in Baghdad," Hashimi said. "So, definitely these additional reinforcements is [are] going to enhance the security, especially in Baghdad."

But, the vice president said military measures must be coupled with political and economic reforms. The prominent Sunni Muslim politician called for greater power-sharing and assurances of equitable distribution of the country's oil wealth. But, he said among the most crucial issues is rebuilding Iraq's security forces, which in their current state have often proved ineffective and largely split along sectarian lines. Hashimi proposed that recalling entire units of Iraq's former army could be a solution.

"When you call for one unit from the ex-army, you will achieve two goals - one, to avoid and get rid of the sectarian orientation," Hashimi said. "And, second you will have a professional army which could be re-oriented for [within] two to three months."

Hashimi also complained of continued meddling by neighboring countries. The United States has long accused Syria and Iran of supporting the insurgency and fueling sectarian violence in Iraq, allegations which Tehran and Damascus deny.

"There is an encouraging sign from Syria that they are honoring what they are promising, which is not the case of Iran so far and I hope that Iran is going to follow," Hashimi said.

The Iraqi vice president said further confrontation is not the answer. He said he supports dialogue with Iran and Syria and efforts to include other neighbors as part of a regional solution. He also said he wants to see all foreign troops leave Iraq as soon as possible, but added a note of caution against pulling out too soon.

"We might deliberately create a security vacuum in Iraq which could lead that the country might slide into chaos and civil war and that civil war is not going to end at the boundaries of Iraq," Hashimi said. "It's going to pass the boundaries to our neighboring countries to create an intolerable chaos in the whole region."

That, said Vice President Hashimi, should be a powerful incentive for Iraq's neighbors to help.

Shortly after Hashimi spoke here in London, news of another bombing came from Baghdad, this one outside a university campus. The attack killed more than 60 people. Such killings have become commonplace and the United Nations reported Tuesday that more than 34,000 Iraqi civilians died in the violence last year.