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 Iraq's Kurdistan parliament speaker wants US troops to stay on 

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Iraq's Kurdistan parliament speaker wants US troops to stay on   5.7.2011    

July 5, 2011

ERBIL-Hewlêr, Kurdistan region 'Iraq', — The parliament chief of northern Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region said on Tuesday that US troops should stay beyond their planned departure date of end 2011 because security remained tenuous.

US officials have repeatedly asked Baghdad to decide if it wants some troops to stay on beyond 2011, as Iraqi leaders bicker over security-related ministries left vacant since the formation of a new government in December.

"Iraq's security situation does not warrant the departure of US troops at this time," Kamal Kirkuki, speaker of the Kurdish parliament, told AFP.

"Iraq is still suffering from instability, and a terrorist war is still continuing," he said. "We in the region wish there will be an Iraqi agreement -- positive or negative -- about keeping the US forces or not keeping them."         

 Iraq’s Kurdistan Parliament’s Speaker, Kamal Kirkuki
He said the political parties in the Baghdad parliament must agree in a "unanimous vote" on the issue of US troops. "One or two factions cannot take the decision and the responsibility for keeping US forces in Iraq," he said.

The remarks of the MP, whose region's fighters backed the 2003 US-led invasion, were aimed at the powerful Shiite alliance in Baghdad that strongly opposes the nearly 50,000 US troops left in Iraq staying beyond the end of 2011.

Muqtada al-Sadr, a radical anti-American Shiite cleric who is close to Iran and whose loyalists are a key pillar of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's unity government,www.ekurd.nethas threatened to unleash violence against US forces if they remain.

The Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish groups with ministers in the Iraqi government have been arguing for the past several months over who should control the key interior and defence ministries.

"The Kurdish leaders are looking in a factual way at the situation in Iraq," Kirkuki said. "We care about having security and stability."

His comments came as US forces in June suffered their deadliest month in three years, with 14 soldiers killed. June was also the most lethal month so far this year for Iraqis, with 271 killed in attacks.

The US ambassador to Iraq, James Jeffrey, told reporters on Saturday that Washington was open to the idea of some troops staying behind, but insisted Iraqi forces must provide protection.

"We're willing to consider some sort of presence if they (Iraqi leaders) can formulate what exactly they need from us and what their priorities are ... We do need the Iraqi forces to secure our troops and, frankly, to secure themselves."

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