Iraqi President Jalal Talabani has warned that if US troops pulled out prematurely from Iraq, the country "will be overrun" by Kurdish and Shiite militias.
"Frankly speaking, we believe that if the US army withdraws, there will be a Kurdish and Shiite military domination of the country," Talabani said in an interview with the daily newspaper al-Rai published on Tuesday.
"Hundreds of thousands of trained Kurds and Shiites are ready and they can overrun all of Iraq. We in the Kurdistan province can dominate the city of Musel and all Arab areas there in a few hours," added Talabani, who is recovering at King Hussein Medical Centre where he was transferred two weeks ago after a sudden illness.
The Iraqi president, who himself leads a Kurdish party backed with a militia, said that a US pullout from Iraq at this juncture "will not be in the interest of the country."
"A real Iraqi force involving all components of the Iraqi people should be ready before a US withdrawal," he added.
Talabani pointed out that he attached big importance to the conference that was held earlier this month in Baghdad with the participation of Iran and Syria.
"US President George W Bush has taken a risk when he agreed that Americans and Iranians meet because the US so far absolutely rejected any encounter with the Iranians before they stop the enrichment (of uranium)," he said.
"Iraq will benefit more than any other country from the US-Iranian rapprochement because if the Americans and the Iranians agree to achieve security and stability in Iraq, I am confident there will be some results on the ground within one month or two months," he added.
"This is because the Iranians have information and capabilities to deal with terrorists," he said.