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Saudi ambassador says U.S., Iraq should agree before troop withdrawal

Saudi ambassador says U.S., Iraq should agree before troop withdrawal

U.S. troops should not be withdrawn from Iraq until the American and Iraqi governments reach an agreement on the best time for that, the outgoing Saudi ambassador to the United States said Friday.
Speaking to reporters after presenting a lecture at Kansas State University, Prince Turki al-Faisal said the U.S. Congress should not limit the number of troops sent to Iraq because it would send a message that President George W. Bush is not a "free agent." Both Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. Congress are questioning Bush's decision to send 21,500 more troops to Iraq.
Prince Turki's comments come against the backdrop of skepticism with which some Arab leaders greeted Bush's Iraq plan _ pitched to them by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during her recent visit to the Middle East.
Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries have come under criticism by some U.S. officials for not playing more active roles in supporting the beleaguered Iraqi government. With Bush in need of support, some Arab nations have indicated they may be willing to help more in exchange for a renewed U.S. push to restart the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
Prince Turki, who resigned as ambassador in December after 15 months on the job, said the United States "came into Iraq uninvited and it should not leave uninvited."
"It is the Iraqis on the ground and the American forces and commanders on the ground who know the situation and can enter into an agreement as to when those forces can leave," he said, stressing that whenever that decision is made, it should be at a time when the Iraqi government is able to stand on its own.
"That is what the Iraqis want, and I will support their position on that," he said, adding that the "presence of American troops at the moment, as deemed by the Iraqi leadership themselves, is necessary to keep the situation in proper perspective and in proper balance."
Saudi Arabia, a majority Sunni country, is wary of the rise of religious Shiite parties in Iraq's new government and the influence of neighboring Shiite Iran, which is believed to be providing military and financial support to Iraq's Shiite militias.
Prince Turki called for the revival of the Middle East "road map for peace", first outlined by Bush, that aims to establish an independent Palestinian state.
"That roadmap for peace needs implementation and it is only the United States that can press the Israeli and the Palestinians to implement the roadmap," he said.
He said reviving the road map could do much to improve the America's tarnished image in the Middle East.
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Updated : 2021-06-23 14:12 GMT+08:00