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Rice dismisses permanent US bases in Iraq

Rice has brushed aside suggestions that US wants an indefinite troop presence and permanent military bases in Iraq.

india Updated: Apr 05, 2006 10:53 IST

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has brushed aside suggestions that the United States wants an indefinite troop presence and permanent military bases in Iraq.

"The presence in Iraq is for a very clear purpose, and that's to enable Iraqis to be able to govern themselves and to create security forces that can help them do that," Rice told the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee's foreign operations panel.

"I don't think that anybody believes that we really want to be there longer than we have to."

Rice would not say when all US forces would return home and did not directly answer Steven Rothman, a Democrat, when he asked, "Will the bases be permanent or not?"

"I would think that people would tell you, 'We're not seeking permanent bases really pretty much anywhere in the world these days.' We are, in fact, in the process of removing base structure from a lot of places," Rice replied.

"I can't foresee the future of whether or not there will be some need for American forces for some period of time," she added.

"But I can tell you that our discussions with the Iraqis are about getting them capable to defend, not just against their internal insurgency and internal enemies, but also to be able to be a responsible and defensible state within the region."

On Capitol Hill, Rice testified before the House panel hours after returning to the United States from a weeklong trip to Europe that included the surprise detour to Iraq.

She and Straw met with nearly all of Iraq's squabbling factions for two days of diplomatic talks.