Iraq on Sunday denied Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki had made remarks backing US Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's plan to withdraw troops from the country and demanding a quick pullout.
The German weekly Der Spiegel reported that Maliki in an interview had supported Obama's plan to withdraw most US troops from Iraq within 16 months if he took office next January.
This “would be the right timescale for withdrawal, allowing for minor adjustments,” Maliki reportedly told the news magazine in the interview to be published on Monday.
Der Spiegel also said that Maliki demanded that American forces leave Iraq “as soon as possible.”
“To date, the United States is struggling to agree on a concrete date for withdrawal because they view such a step as an admission of defeat, which is not the case,” Maliki was reported as saying.
But on Sunday Baghdad government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh denied Maliki had made the remarks, saying they had been “misunderstood and mistranslated and not conveyed accurately.”
Dabbagh said that any statement by Maliki or member of Iraq's government “should not be understood as support for any US presidential candidate.”
In a speech in Washington on Wednesday, Obama said he would withdraw most US forces from Iraq within 16 months starting in January, 2009. “We can safely redeploy our combat brigades at a pace that would remove them in 16 months. That would be the summer of 2010 —two years from now, and more than seven years after the war began,” he said.
Obama said a residual force would continue performing limited missions such as pursuing Al-Qaeda, protecting US service members and training Iraqi forces.
The controversy comes at at time when Washington and Baghdad are negotiating a highly sensitive security pact on the future of American forces in Iraq.