Iraq president backs plan to decentralize the country
The United States could withdraw more than 100,000 soldiers out of Iraq by the end of 2008 but should retain three permanent bases, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said Sunday. Interviewed by CNN in Washington, Talabani also backed a US Senate plan to decentralize Iraq along ethnic lines, but said he opposed an independent Kurdistan.
"More than 100,000 can be back by the end of the next year," he said of the US troop presence in Iraq.
Talabani told CNN that he wanted the United States to retain three permanent bases in northern, central and southern Iraq to train Iraqi forces "and preventing our neighbors from interfering."
"Of course, Iran included, we don't want Iran to interfere in our internal affairs. We want good relations with Iran," he said.
Talabani also backed a US Senate vote last month to subdivide Iraq into Kurdish, Shiite and Sunni entities, with a federal government in Baghdad in charge of border security and oil revenues. The plan is opposed by the White House and by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.
A close reading of the Senate's non-binding resolution shows that "in every article that it is insisting on the unity of Iraq, of the security of Iraq, of the prosperity of Iraq, of national reconciliation and asking our neighbors not to interfere in the internal affairs of Iraq," Talabani said.
Talabani stressed: "There is no possibility of having independent Kurdistan for many reasons." Regional powers with their own Kurdish minorities such as Turkey, Iran, and Syria would "send arms to fight that," he said, and the Kurdish people's best interest lies in a "democratic, federal regime in Iraq."