Iraq claimes US-led forces to stay

Iraq asked the U.N. Security Council on Monday to let a U.S.-led multinational force remain in Iraq for another year, acknowledging its own troops could not yet assure national security.

The request came in a letter to the 15-nation council from Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari.

"This means that basically the mandate and the status of the multinational force will be discussed in the coming weeks so that from January 1, 2006, we will have a consistent military presence in Iraq as happened in the past," Mihai-Razvan Ungureanu, the foreign minister of Romania, the Security Council president for October, told.

The multinational force's current mandate expires at the end of this year, under a resolution approved by the council in June 2004, when the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority turned over Iraq's administration to an interim government.

Extending the mandate through the end of 2006 will require the council to adopt a new resolution in the next two months.

Jaafari said the government in Baghdad wanted the right to terminate the mandate before the end of 2006 if it decided to do so. He also asked the council to agree to review the new mandate eight months after its approval or at any other time if asked to do so by Baghdad.

Under the political timetable set out in the June 2004 resolution, Iraqis are to elect a government by December 31 now that the new constitution has been approved in an October 15 referendum. Parliamentary elections have been set for December 15.

There are now about 175,000 soldiers in the multinational force, including about 150,000 from the United States, Reuters reports.

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