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Iraqi Leader Warns Early Pullout Of Coalition Troops 'Catastrophic'

London (AFP) Oct 06, 2005
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani warned Thursday that an early pullout from Iraq by the US-led military would be "catastrophic", as British Prime Minister Tony Blair said British troops would stay for as long as necessary.

Talabani predicted, however, that coalition soldiers should be able to leave within two years once Iraq's own security force was up to speed.

At the same time, he urged against setting a fixed timetable for withdrawal.

"Your commitment to the cause of democracy in Iraq in training our security forces will help us stand on our feet and run on our own two feet," said the president, on his first official visit to Europe since taking office in April.

He told reporters that Baghdad ultimately wanted to see an end to the presence of coalition forces but only when Iraq was ready.

"If they pull out it would be catastrophic for the people of Iraq and the cause of democracy and it would be a win for terrorists," he said at a joint news conference with Blair in London following a meeting between the pair.

Dates for the departure of troops would not be set because "a timetable will only help the terrorists."

But in a speech at the research institute Chatham House later Talabani said the US-led military should leave once Iraq's army and police force were able to protect the public alone.

Asked how long this would be, he said: "We expect about two years, from one to two years."

For his part, Blair said Britain's mission was to help the Iraqi people create a peaceful democracy free from the violence that mars their daily lives.

"All of us know we have to build up the capability of the Iraqi forces, which we are trying to do," he said.

"And all of us know the purpose of the multinational force is to remain in order to achieve that," he said, emphasising that the aim of staying on Iraqi soil was not strategic.

"We intend to stay with you for as long as you need us, as long as you want us to see that course through," Blair said.

He looked towards another wave of elections planned for December.

"After the December elections, if everything works right, there will be a sovereign democratically elected government in Iraq... and then, we are their servants in that situation, they tell us what to do, if they want us to stay to help... then we stay."

Iraq faces another important milestone on October 15, when the country is due to hold a referendum on a new Iraqi constitution, Talabani said.

The charter has caused deep divisions between the Sunnis and the rival majority Shiites and their Kurdish allies who now dominate parliament.

But Talabani, a Kurd, said that was to be expected in a democracy

"We tried to build the unanimous support for this constitution and gather all Iraqis around. Unfortunately we are not able to convince everyone and I think in a democratic society it is impossible to convince everyone," he said.

"Now the constitution will be put to a referendum... I hope it will be accepted by the majority of the Iraqi people."

As for the daily bloodshed, Talabani dismissed fears that the violence would intensify in the run-up to the referendum.

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Blair Warns Iran On Iraq Bombings
London (UPI) Oct 06, 2005
British Prime Minister Tony Blair has issued a stark warning to Iran not to interfere with Iraqi affairs, after the British ambassador to Iraq accused the Islamic republic of supplying explosive devices to Iraqi militia for use against British troops.

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