Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Breaking: Iraq to Formally Seek Long-term US Presence

Baghdad, Aug 30,- Iraqi Foreign Minster Hoshyar Zibari said on Thursday an expanded conference for Iraq’s neighboring countries is to convene in Baghdad in early September, unveiling that Iraq is seeking a long-term security agreement with the U.S. next year once the U.N. mandate given to the Multi-National Forces’ presence in the country was over. Iraq wants to establish a long-term U.S. military presence many years into the future, likely to include permanent bases.

“Iraq is currently making preparations for a meeting that will include Iraq’s neighbors, U.N. Security Council permanent members and G8 on the experts’ level during the first week of September in Baghdad,” Hoshyar Zibari told a news conference today in Baghdad.
The Iraqi minister stressed that the meeting is expected to review the points implemented by the three work committees set up by the Sharm al-Sheikh conference held in May in the fields of energy, security and Iraqi refugees.

“The conference is also to discuss the preparations for the ministerial conference scheduled in Istanbul,” Zibari told reporters.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi Foreign Minister unveiled that Iraq “is seeking the signatory of a long-term security agreement with the U.S. next year once the U.N. mandate given to the presence of the Multi-National Forces in Iraq was over.”

Minister Zibari noted that the agreement recently reached among the Iraqi political leaders included a clause indicating the readiness of the Iraqi government to have a long-term partnership with the U.S. in security.

“This agreement will help us and our friends to act together in the security aspect,” the Iraqi Minister said.
Zibari told reporters “the United Nations will review the presence of the Multi-National Forces in Iraq at the end of this year and we will act to issue a new resolution from the Security Council on new joint security arrangements.”
“The move needs much efforts but it is a step towards enhancing the sovereignty of Iraq,” said the minister noting that “it is still too early to discuss establishing U.S. bases in Iraq according to this agreement but there will be U.S. troops’ presence for a long time with smaller size and different missions.”

Zibari considered such a move as “an internal issue and has nothing to do with the neighboring countries.”

The Iraqi Foreign Minister also touched upon the Iranian artillery shelling against the Kurdish villages in northern Iraq saying “the shelling has become a routine action that targets residential areas in Sulaimaniyah and Arbil everyday.”

“The Iraqi government informed the Iranian ambassador of its protest against these operations demanding an immediate halt to the shelling into the Iraqi territories,” Zibari added.
The Iraqi minister who warned that the shelling will harm the relations between the two countries threatened that “the Iraqi government will not sit idle towards the continued Iranian shelling of the Iraqi territories.”
“We are not so weak to the extent that all countries intervene and do what they like in Iraq while we keep silent,” the minister noted.
“There are measures that we will take through diplomatic channels hopefully to end the shelling,” said Zibari who also admitted the presence of Iranian opposition groups on the Iraqi territories.

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