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'British troops could leave Iraq by end of 2006'

British troops could leave Iraq by the end of 2006, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani has predicted.

india Updated: Nov 13, 2005 09:21 IST

British troops could leave Iraq by the end of 2006, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani has predicted.

In a TV interview to be broadcast in Britain on Sunday, Talabani said no Iraqis wanted foreign troops to remain indefinitely in their country, adding that homegrown troops should be ready to take over from British forces in the southern provinces around Basra by the end of next year.

But he warned that an immediate withdrawal of US-led forces would be a catastrophe for Iraq and would lead to civil war, with harmful consequences for the whole Middle East.

"We don't want British forces forever in Iraq. Within one year - I think at the end of 2006 - Iraqi troops will be ready to replace British forces in the south," Talabani said in the interview with Jonathan Dimbleby for Independent Television. The station released details from the interview on Saturday before it aired.

Pressed on whether this assessment amounted to a commitment, Talabani replied: "Well, I haven't been in negotiations, but in my opinion and according to my study of the situation, I can say that it is the just estimation of the situation ... There is not one Iraqi that wants that forever the troops remain in the country."

He said, however, that immediate withdrawal "would lead to a kind of civil war and ... We will lose what we have done for liberating Iraq from worst kind of dictatorship."

"Instead of having a democratic, stable Iraq, we will have a civil war in Iraq, we will have troubles in Iraq, (and they) will affect all the Middle East."

Talabani called for a gradual pullout, with close coordination between coalition nations and the Iraqi authorities.

First Published: Nov 13, 2005 09:21 IST