BAGHDAD, Iraq – Iraq's military is drawing up plans on how to cope if U.S.-led forces leave the country quickly, the defense minister said Monday.
The statement by Defense Minister Abdul-Qader al-Obeidi marked the first time a senior Iraqi official has spoken publicly about the possibility of a quick end to the U.S.-led mission.
It was unclear if the remarks were more than routine contingency planning.
"The army plans on the basis of a worst-case scenario so as not to allow any security vacuum," al-Obeidi said. "There are meetings with political leaders on how we can deal with a sudden pullout."
The White House is negotiating with Democratic leaders in Congress over a war-spending bill for Iraq. President Bush vetoed the first version because it set timetables for the withdrawal of U.S. forces.
Last week, Sen. Mitch McConnell, the top Republican in the Senate, said senators in both parties were frustrated with the Iraqi government's lack of progress in meeting political goals and reconciling the country's religious and ethnic groups.
However, Bush expressed confidence in Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in a telephone call from his ranch in Texas, Bush spokesman Tony Fratto said.
"The president reaffirmed his confidence in the prime minister and noted the courage that he has shown in a challenging and difficult year," Fratto said.
"Obviously we want the Iraqis and the Iraqi parliament to move as quickly as possible," Fratto said. "Progress on advancing these initiatives is not moving as quickly as anyone wants — and I think that includes Prime Minister Maliki and many members of parliament."