Iraqi Prime Minister wants foreign troops out of country by 2009

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Washington, July 20 : Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has said that he would like to see British and US troops leave Iraq by the end of next year. Maliki's comments are a boost to Gordon Brown and Barack Obama, who is shortly due to visit Baghdad.

Malili said, "US presumptive democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama is on record as saying that foreign troops should be out of Iraq within 16 months."

"We think, this would be the right timeframe for a withdrawal, with the possibility of slight changes," the Der Spiegel quoted him, as saying.

The statement is the first time that Maliki has backed a specific timetable.

On being asked if he supported Obama's ideas more than those of John McCain, Maliki said, "Whoever is thinking about the shorter term is closer to reality. Artificially extending the stay of U.S. troops would cause problems."

He further added, "The Americans have found it difficult to agree on a concrete timetable for the exit because it seems like an admission of defeat to them. But it isn't."

Last week, the Pentagon acknowledged that it is likely to accelerate a drawdown of troops in the coming months.

The intervention will give Obama in particular a public relations coup against his Republican rival John McCain, who has said that setting a firm date for departure is tantamount to surrender in Iraq.

ANI

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