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Iraqi Government Spokesman Opposes Premature Troop Withdrawal

Iraq's government spokesman, Ali al-Dabbagh, spoke out Wednesday against what he called a "premature" withdrawal of U.S. forces from his country. He said U.S. troops should not leave until Iraq is ready and its security forces have received sufficient training. VOA's William Ide reports from Washington, where the Iraqi official made his remarks.

Al-Dabbagh says there will come a time when Iraq is ready for the withdrawal of foreign troops. But he warned that such a withdrawal should not be "premature." He said an early withdrawal could trigger more instability and would have local, regional and global implications.

"It is not the right solution to have a premature withdrawal of the troops," he said. "Troops should continue and finish their job. Part of their job is the training of the Iraqi security forces, a neutral Iraqi, professional Iraqi security forces."

In an address at the congressionally funded United States Institute for Peace in Washington, al-Dabbagh warned that an early withdrawal would create more room for Iran and al-Qaida to make deeper inroads into Iraq.

"The premature withdrawal of the American troops will create a vacuum," he added.

His comments come as President Bush and Congress are in a tense political fight over a supplemental funding bill that in part seeks to set timetables for the complete withdrawal of American troops from Iraq sometime next year.

The president has invited congressional leaders from both parties to meet with him at the White House next week. President Bush says he wants a supplemental funding bill that does not set deadlines for the withdrawal of troops. He has threatened to veto any bill that does.

Democrats have threatened to cut funding altogether by early next year if the president vetoes their final version of the funding bill.

Al-Dabbagh says early next year is too soon.

"The end of 2007 and 2008 will be the time for part of the American troops to be withdrawn," he explained.

The United States is currently increasing the number of American troops in Iraq in a bid to stabilize Baghdad and other violent areas of the country. The Pentagon says 30,000 troops being deployed to Iraq as part of the "troop surge" will remain there until at least the end of August.

Al-Dabbagh said he hopes that, once Iraq stabilizes, it will have a positive impact on the Middle East.

Al-Dabbagh also spoke about measures his government is taking to help stabilize the country, such as allocating some $14 billion to create new jobs. He says the Iraq government has also set aside funds for the construction of new hospitals and some 200 new schools.