Iraq rejects U.S. demand for longer military presence in country

April 13, 2011 - 0:0

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Iraqi government officially turned down a call by the U.S. Defense Secretary, Robert Gates, for a longer U.S. military presence in the country.

Speaking to the Fars News Agency in Baghdad on Monday, Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said that Gates had raised the demand in a meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
“Mr. Maliki rejected Gates' demand, saying that Iraq will deal with the issue based on the security pact (signed between Washington and Baghdad),” Dabbagh added.
Media reports said that the U.S. defense secretary pressed senior Iraqi officials Friday to decide whether they want U.S. troops to remain in the country beyond their scheduled departure in the yearend.
In a meeting with U.S. troops on Friday, Gates said his three-day visit to Iraq had been “all about” whether American boots will remain on the ground in Iraq beyond the current Dec. 31 withdrawal deadline.
During the course of his trip, Gates met with Iraq's top leaders -- Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq, President Jalal Talabani and Kurdistan Regional Government President Massoud Barzani.
Meantime, Sabah Barzandi, a member of the parliament of Iraq's Kurdistan region, denied media reports that Iraqi Kurds have asked for a longer U.S. military presence in the country's autonomous region of Kurdistan.
Speaking to FNA Barzandi stressed that based on the security pact, Iraq's central government is the sole authority to decide the U.S. forces' presence on Iraqi soil, reminding that Kurdistan's representatives have also approved and endorsed the pact.
“The security pact is the reference for dealing with the issue of the U.S. (military) presence,” the Kurdish lawmaker noted.
“It is not related to Iraq's Kurdish officials and they have no role in the U.S. forces' stay or exit. It is up to the central government to decide on the issue,” Barzandi said.
Meantime, Tens of thousands of Iraqi people rallied on Saturday in Baghdad to mark the eighth anniversary of the US occupation, demanding its troops to leave Iraq.
Photo: Ali al-Dabbagh, government spokesman for Iraq