July 20, 2008 / 5:47 AM / in 11 years

Iraq PM did not back Obama troop exit plan: government

Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki (L) speaks to reporters during a news conference in Amara, 300km (185 miles) southeast of Baghdad June 23, 2008. REUTERS/Salah Thani

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki did not back the plan of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq and his comments to a German magazine on the issue were misunderstood, the government’s spokesman said on Sunday.

Ali al-Dabbagh said in a statement that Maliki’s remarks to Der Spiegel were translated incorrectly.

The German magazine said on Saturday that Maliki supported Obama’s proposal that U.S. troops should leave Iraq within 16 months. The interview was released on Saturday.

“U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama talks about 16 months. That, we think, would be the right time frame for a withdrawal, with the possibility of slight changes,” Der Spiegel quoted Maliki as saying.

Dabbagh said statements by Maliki or any other member of the government should not be seen as support for any U.S. presidential candidate.

Obama is visiting Afghanistan and is set to go to Iraq as part of a tour of Europe and the Middle East.

Maliki’s remarks were published a day after the White House said he and President George W. Bush had agreed that a security agreement currently being negotiated between them should include a “time horizon” for withdrawal of U.S. troops.

Bush has long opposed setting a timetable for withdrawal, and the White House said the time horizon agreed by the two leaders was not as specific as a time frame pushed by Democrats and could be adjusted based on conditions on the ground.

Reporting by Dean Yates

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