UNITED NATIONS – Iraq's president said Friday the government will not talk about a timetable for withdrawing U.S.-led forces until the Iraqi armed forces are capable of ending terrorism and maintaining security.
President Jalal Talabani told the U.N. General Assembly that terrorist operations are not only killing innocent people and creating security chaos, but aim to destroy efforts to rebuild the country and put it "on the path of peace, security and democracy."
He said the government is committed to a national reconciliation plan which hopefully will provide the protection and conditions needed to ensure security. At the same time, he said, efforts to build the Iraqi armed forces are making progress but U.S.-led coalition troops are in Iraq at the government's request.
"They are essential for us in the present circumstances while accomplishing the mission of building our armed forces that are capable of ending terrorism and maintaining stability and security," Talabani said. "Only then will it be possible to talk about a timetable for the withdrawal of the multinational force from Iraq."
Talabani said that as Iraqi forces become meet the requirements to take over, they will gradually replace coalition forces.
He thanked U.S. President George W. Bush "for his leadership of the campaign to liberate Iraq from tyranny and opening the doors for a new, democratic, pluralistic and federal Iraq that is at peace with itself and the world."
"This historic mission has served the people of Iraq and peace and security in the region," Talabani said.