Zebari: Iraq will understand if US starts troop pull out
IRNA - Islamic Republic News Agency
Brussels, June 22, IRNA
Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said Tuesday that Baghdad would not be surprised if US withdrew its forces from the country early next year.
"I would not be surprised ... some withdrawal by the US forces from early 2006 would be understandable because by then the capacity of our security forces would be greater and better," he told reporters after holding talks with the Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Jaap de HoopScheffer, in Brussels Tuesday evening.
Zebari was replying to a question on reports that the US intends to begin pulling out its occupation forces from the Arab country by March next year.
"There are many responsibilities that are being gradually transferred to Iraqi units. Only Iraqis can defend themselves at the end of the day," he stressed.
Zebari, who is in Brussels to attend an international conference on Iraq, called for closer cooperation and coordination between NATO and the Iraqi defence ministry.
"The consequences of failure will go far beyond Iraq itself," warned the Iraqi minister.
On his part, Scheffer assured continued NATO support in the training and equipping of Iraqi security forces.
The 26-member alliance is training Iraqi security forces at NATO training centers inside and outside Iraq.
NATO has decided to train some 1,000 Iraqi officers in the country, and about 500 outside Iraq annually. The organization is also to provide the country with significant amount of military equipment.
Zebari noted that it was his third visit to NATO headquarters in Brussels within a year. Scheffer visited Iraq in December.
He said NATO will establish a joint military staff college on September 25 in Iraq.
"This would be a landmark development for providing first class training to the new Iraqi junior and senior staff," he said.
Zebari accused "terror networks of Saddam Hussein, Islamic fundamentalists and ordinary criminal gangs" for "undermining stability, security and the work of the new government."
He said he could not give any specific date for the trial of Saddam Hussein.
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