Fri, Jun 04, 2004 - Page 6 News List

US troops to stay in Iraq: Powell

UNEQUAL PARTNERS The US secretary of state says that in case the Iraq authorities and the occupiers disagree, the US will refuse veto power to the `sovereign' rulers

AP , WASHINGTON

The US will not give Iraq a veto over US troops, but will work with the government there as partners, Secretary of State Colin Powell said on Wednesday.

As several nations demanded changes in a proposed UN resolution to bolster Iraq's authority, Powell said the 138,000 US troops will remain under US command. "There could be a situation where we have to act and there may be a disagreement," Powell said.

In a televised interview with Middle East Broadcasting, Powell reminded critics of the already revised US-British draft that gives sovereignty to the interim Iraqi government. Still, he said, the US and Iraq will operate as partners and "work out the necessary arrangements" between US and Iraqi forces.

"We are not looking for ways to cause problems," he said. "We are looking for ways to solve problems."

"You can't use the word `veto'" to describe Iraq's authority, he said.

While the Iraqi government is sovereign, circumstances could arise where US troops might have to protect themselves, Powell said. "Hopefully, it will always be with the agreement and understanding of the Iraqi interim government," he said. "I don't expect that we will run into any problems."

At the same time, Powell said the US has had to be "very prudent" in the way it has used American troops. Holding back the Marines in Fallujah and letting tribal sheiks and others try to restore order had nothing to do with US politics, he said.

"There are still bad people in there," Powell said. "But nevertheless, we are working with the local political authorities and Iraqi police and civil defense troops in order to control that situation."

"We are not going in and destroying buildings and hospitals, and hurting innocent people," he said.

"I think we are being very prudent in the way we use our forces. It's got nothing to do with the presidential elections."

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