Senior Iraqi backs Obama troop withdrawal plans
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq supports proposals by President-elect Barack Obama to withdraw U.S. combat troops from the country by mid-2010, National Security Adviser Mowaffaq al-Rubaie said on Thursday.
Obama has campaigned on a plan to withdraw combat troops from Iraq within 16 months of taking office, while his opponent John McCain -- and the administration of outgoing President George W. Bush -- opposed setting a timetable.
Asked to comment on Obama's proposed schedule, Rubaie told Al-Arabiya television: "When the capability of Iraqi forces grows we will not need the presence of foreign troops.
"We think 16 months is good."
Iraqi officials have long made clear that they favored a withdrawal over the next few years. But they were reluctant to publicly endorse Obama's plan while the campaign was under way.
"Obama's presence at the head of the U.S. administration will give new blood, new thoughts and new plans. We want to be in a fundamental alliance with the United States," Rubaie said.
After years of opposing a timetable for withdrawal, the Bush administration has accepted Baghdad's demand that it commit to withdrawing all troops by the end of 2011, bringing it closer to Obama's position.
That 2011 withdrawal date is contained in a security pact which would take effect at the beginning of next year, but the agreement was held up last month after Baghdad asked for last-minute changes.
Washington delivered what it called a "final text" on Thursday, apparently closing the door on further talks. But Iraq said it still wanted to hammer out issues like the conditions under which its courts could try U.S. soldiers for crimes.
Rubaie said that Washington had agreed in Thursday's draft to changes that firm up the 2011 withdrawal deadline.
"This is an Iraqi condition. Yes, they agreed on this amendment. The foreign military presence in Iraq will end in 2011," he said. But he said further talks were still needed to cover other issues where Iraqi demands were not met.
"We proposed to the U.S. negotiating delegation 110 changes. They came today with a reply. They agreed to most of them," he said. "We will enter into new negotiations and discussions."
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