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Maliki: No plans to extend US presence
Sun, 24 Apr 2011 08:28:05 GMT
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Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki says Baghdad has no plans to extend the presence of US troops in the country beyond December 2011.

Al-Maliki's office said in a statement on Saturday that he is not going to extend The Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with the US military and does not seek to prolong the US presence in Iraq, IRIB quoted an AFP report as saying.

"The Prime Minister rule(s) out the possibility for any new security agreement to prolong the presence of US troops in Iraq, because the (current) document of the strategic agreement (SOFA) is clear in this respect," the statement said.

The statement reiterated that various Iraqi groups have opposed a US military presence in the country after December 2011.

SOFA signed between the United States and the Iraqi government mandates that Washington withdraw its troops from Iraq by the end of December 2011.

Meanwhile, top US military officer Admiral Mike Mullen, in his recent visit to Baghdad, called on the government of Iraq to begin talks if it wanted US forces to remain in the country.

Yet, in a meeting with the top American general, al-Maliki said the Iraqi army is capable of maintaining thr country's security and that “they worked with professionalism.”

The American forces should leave as scheduled, he stressed.

About 47,000 American soldiers are currently stationed in the oil-rich Middle Eastern country.

The US has long eyed a prolonged stay in Iraq and has expressed reservations about withdrawing all American combat troops from the country by the end-of-the-year deadline.

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