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World News

Iraqi, Taliban militants demand Obama pull U.S. out

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - An Iraqi insurgent coalition and the Taliban warned U.S. President-elect Barack Obama to withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq and Afghanistan or face more resistance, U.S. monitoring groups reported on Thursday.

The messages express an openness to new relations with the United States under Obama, who has pledged to break with outgoing President George W. Bush’s policies on both wars, but the militant groups demanded U.S. withdrawal and other concessions in exchange.

“There is neither sadness nor happiness among the Taliban groups over the election of Barack Obama as U.S. president,” Qari Mohammad Yousuf, a spokesman for the Taliban in Afghanistan, said in statements monitored by the Middle East Media Research Institute, or MEMRI.

“They (the United States and its allies) have started the fighting and they should bring an end to it by pulling out troops. If it was not done, Afghans will show strong resistance to every foreign occupation,” he said.

Similar messages were issued by a Taliban spokesman in Pakistan and other militant groups there.

During the campaign Obama pledged to withdraw combat troops from Iraq on a timetable he said could be completed within 16 months, and to bolster forces battling Taliban and al Qaeda militants in Afghanistan. He said he was willing to send U.S. troops into neighboring Pakistan without notice if needed to strike a high-profile al Qaeda target.

Yousuf said the Taliban was open to talks with an Obama administration, but only on the condition of total Western troop withdrawal.

In Iraq, the Political Council for the Iraqi Resistance, an umbrella organization of Sunni insurgent groups, said in an open letter to Obama, “Your election promises rested on change ... we say with you it is time.”

In the message monitored by the SITE Intelligence Group, the council promised to be “flexible” in dealing with a withdrawal plan, but said it must not be accompanied by a security agreement with an “artificial government.”

It called for compensation to Iraqis for injuries to property, family or psyche, and for the release of detained Iraqis.

“Your winning the presidency is not because the Americans all of a sudden realized that they should not be racist,” the council said, referring to Obama’s election to be the first black U.S. president. “Rather, it is because of the many mistakes which the Bush administration made.”

“Those who transgress us will find us to sacrifice our souls,” the group said. “We in the resistance hold on to the covenant until the liberation of our country. We will not tire in that.”

Reporting by Randall Mikkelsen; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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