Sat, Sep 15, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Bush offers small pullout from Iraq, rules out leaving

WARNING FROM IRAN Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the US president will be tried in court one day for his crimes against the Iraqis just like Saddam was

AFP AND AP , WASHINGTON AND TEHRAN

US President George W. Bush announced on Thursday he will pull some 21,500 combat troops from Iraq by the middle of next year, but ruled out a full withdrawal and promised an "enduring" US presence there.

"Because of the measure of success we are seeing in Iraq, we can begin seeing troops come home," he said in a prime-time televised speech.

"The more successful we are, the more American troops can return home," he said.

Insisting the war can still be won, Bush said whoever succeeds him at the White House will likely inherit the conflict and warned against giving up on a fledgling ally that is "fighting for its survival."

With most public opinion polls showing the US public two-to-one opposed to his strategy, and his Democratic foes clamoring for a withdrawal, Bush defiantly said he would build "an enduring relationship" with Iraq.

Iraqi leaders "understand that their success will require US political, economic and security engagement that extends beyond my presidency," Bush said.

"These Iraqi leaders have asked for an enduring relationship with America. And we are ready to begin building that relationship in a way that protects our interests in the region and requires many fewer American troops," he said.

Bush bluntly acknowledged he was not satisfied with the pace of Iraqi political reforms that Washington views as critical to forging national unity and quelling sectarian violence and urged leaders in Baghdad to do more.

The White House told Congress yesterday that Iraqi leaders have gained little new ground toward meeting key military and political goals.

The White House report concluded that Iraqis have done enough to move only one benchmark -- allowing former members of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein's Baath Party to hold government positions -- from the unsatisfactory to satisfactory column.

Meanwhile, Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said yesterday that Bush will one day be tried in court just like Saddam.

Speaking to thousands of worshippers during the first Friday prayer of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Khamenei said that Bush will be called to account for the US-led invasion of Iraq.

"A day will come that the current US president and officials will be tried in an international supreme court for the catastrophes they caused in Iraq," he said. "Americans will have to answer for why they don't end occupation of Iraq and why waves of terrorism and insurgency have overwhelmed the country."

See:

Australia not planning to reduce troops in Iraq

Sunnis vow to avenge leader's killing

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